Hipkins warns NZ voters against ‘turning the clock back’ on reforms

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NZ's parliamentary Beehive
NZ's parliamentary Beehive . . . an election campaign with a debate where many focused on attacking their political opponents. Image: RNZ/Cole Eastham-Farrelly

By Russell Palmer, RNZ News digital political journalist

Parliament has ended for another term, shutting down ahead of the Aotearoa New Zealand election campaign with a debate where many focused on attacking their political opponents.

Labour Party leader and Prime Minister Chris Hipkins warned New Zealanders: “We can continue to move forward under Labour, or we can face a coalition of cuts, chaos, and fear: A National/ACT/New Zealand First government that would be one of the most inexperienced and untested in our history.”

Parliament typically rises at the end of a term with an adjournment debate, and Thursday’s seemed to confirm the coming election on October 14 would be full of negative campaigning.

Here is a brief summary of the political leaders’ speeches:

Chris Hipkins (Labour):

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on the last day of parliament before the 2023 election
Labour Party leader and PM Chris Hipkins . . . “Ours is a government that has been forged through fire. Every challenge that has been thrown our way, we have risen to that.” Image: RNZ/Angus Dreaver

Labour’s leader and incumbent Prime Minister Chris Hipkins launched into the closing adjournment debate reflecting on the eventful past six years. He said his own tenure in the role had not broken that mould, with the Auckland floods sweeping in just two days after he was sworn in, followed by Cyclone Gabrielle.

“Ours is a government that has been forged through fire. Every challenge that has been thrown our way, we have risen to that,” he said.

He said Labour had achieved a lot, but there was more to do — and much at stake in the coming election.

“We can continue to move forward under Labour, or we can face a coalition of cuts, chaos, and fear: A National/ACT/New Zealand First government that would be one of the most inexperienced and untested in our history, a government who want to wind the clock back on all of the progress that we are making.”

He praised Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s handling of the economy, highlighting a 6 percent larger economy than before the covid-19 pandemic, record low unemployment, and wages “growing faster under our government than inflation”.

He soon returned to attacking political opponents, however.

“Now is not the time to turn back. Now is not the time to stoke the inflationary fires with unfunded tax cuts as the members opposite promised, and it is not a time to turn our backs on talent by introducing a talent tax,” he said, referring to National’s plan to increase levies on visas.

“National wants to turn the clock backwards; we want to keep moving forward.”

He finished by saying Labour had a positive vision for New Zealand, before his final parting words: “and I wave goodbye to Michael Woodhouse, too, because he’s guaranteed not to be here after the election”.

Christopher Luxon (National):

Leader of the National Party Christopher Luxon
National Party leader Christopher Luxon . . . “[The Labour government] turned out it was all words and no action, because, as we expected, [Hipkins] just carried on doing more of the same: Excessive, addicted government spending.” Image: RNZ/Angus Dreaver

The National leader said Hipkins’ speech should be one of apology, “to the parents and the kids who actually have been let down by an education system …to all the people who have waited for endless times and hours in hospital emergency departments … to all the victims of ram raids in dairies and superettes … to all the people that are lying awake at night worried about how they’re going to make their payments and keep their house.”

He continued with the requisite thanks such speeches so often sprinkle on officials, staff, supporters and workers before thanking the man he had been criticising.

“I do want to thank, in particular, the Prime Minister Chris Hipkins for his services to the National Party, because he rode in very triumphantly in February, and he announced that he was sweeping away everything that Jacinda Ardern stood for-especially kindness. But I have to say it turned out it was all words and no action, because, as we expected, he just carried on doing more of the same: Excessive, addicted government spending.

He turned to the slew of Labour personnel problems of the past year and more, likening the government to a car with the wheels falling off; the Greens were “in this rally too, they’re on their e-bikes, and they’re pedalling along the Wellington cycle lanes,” while Te Pāti Māori were “in their waka, but, sadly, they’re not the party of collaboration that they once were”.

“Then there are the ACT folk. They’re off in their pink van, and it’s been wonderful. They’re travelling the countryside, and David’s reading Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, which is a good read, as you well know, Mr Speaker.”

He lavished praise on his own team, singling out deputy Nicola Willis, then closed by promising National was “ready to govern, we are sorted, we are united, we have the talent, we have the energy, we have the ideas, we have the diversity to take this country forward”.

David Seymour (ACT):

ACT party leader David Seymour speaks at the censure of National MP Tim van de Molen
ACT party leader David Seymour . . . “Half the people who voted for Labour at the last election have abandoned voting for Labour in three years. The question that they must be asking themselves is why that is.” Image: RNZ/Angus Dreaver

ACT’s leader also honed in on his political opponents, targeting Labour’s polling.

“It’s been a long three years in this Chamber and it has been characterised by one fact that lays bare what has happened, and that is the fact that the Labour Party, in Roy Morgan, polled 26 percent. That means that half the people who voted for Labour at the last election have abandoned voting for Labour in three years. The question that they must be asking themselves is why that is.”

“I think the reason that we have so much change and support-Labour have lost half of their supporters in the last three years because, frankly, never has so much been promised to so many and yet so little actually delivered … New Zealanders overwhelmingly say this country is going in the wrong direction, and they also will tell you that their number one concern is the cost of living. That is Grant Robertson’s epitaph.”

He targeted housing, debt, inflation, victimisation, and child poverty before targeting the government for taking “a divisive approach to almost every single issue”.

“If you take the example of vaccination. Now, I’m a person who says that vaccination was safe and effective, yet by using ostracism as a tool to try and increase vaccination levels this government has eroded social cohesion and divided New Zealanders when they didn’t need to,” he said.

“New Zealand have had enough of that style of politics. They’ve had enough of Chris Hipkins going negative. They’ve had enough of the misinformation.”

He finished by saying the choice for New Zealanders now was not between swapping “Chris for Chris and red for blue”, but “we’ll actually deliver what we promise, we’ll cut waste, we’ll end racial division, and we’ll get the politics out of the classroom. Those aren’t just policies, those are values that we all share.”

James Shaw (Greens):

Green Party co-leader James Shaw
Green Party co-leader James Shaw . . . “Our greenhouse gas emissions in Aotearoa are falling, and that is because — and it is only because — with the Green Party in government with Labour, we have prioritised that work every single day.” Image: RNZ/Angus Dreaver

The Green co-leader took his own opening shot at Seymour, as “the leader of ‘New New Zealand First'”.

“Mr Seymour must be feeling quite grumpy right now, because last term he worked so hard to get rid of Winston Peters so that this term he could become Winston Peters, and now Winston Peters is calling and he wants his Horcrux back because that blackened shard of a soul can only animate the body of one populist authoritarian at once.”

He turned the hose on both major parties in one statement, saying it was odd National was proposing more new taxes than Labour while the Greens were promising bigger tax cuts than National. He criticised National over its plan to spend the funds from the Emissions Trading Scheme, before turning to climate change overall as — unusually — a source of positivity.

“Our greenhouse gas emissions in Aotearoa are falling, and that is because — and it is only because — with the Green Party in government with Labour, we have prioritised that work every single day.”

But positivity did not last long.

“Under the last National government, one in 100 new cars sold in this country was an electric vehicle. Last June, it was one in two … and National want to cancel all of that so that they can have an election year bribe.”

Rawiri Waititi (Te Pāti Māori):

Te Pati Māori MPs Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi (speaking) on the Budget debate, 18 May 2023
Te Pati Māori MPs Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi (speaking) . . . “Te Pāti Māori is a movement that leaves no one behind, whether you are tangata whenua or a tangata Tiriti, tangata hauā, takatāpui, wāhine, tāne, rangatahi, mokopuna — you are whānau.” Image: Johnny Blades

The Pāti Māori leader Rawiri Waititi began with a fairy tale.

“It seems like this side of the House can find a grain of salt in a sugar factory. I just wanted to say, as I heard the story about Goldilocks — Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Baby Bear — I tell you, it’s been very difficult to sit next to a polar bear and a gummy bear, and it’s been quite hard to contain the grizzly bear in me.”

He spoke in te reo Māori before giving a speech which — unlike the other leaders — focused exclusively on his own party’s promises.

“We are the only movement that will fight for our people,” he said.

“What does an Aotearoa hou look like? It looks like how we would treat you on the marae. We will welcome you. We will feed you. We will house you. We will protect you. We will educate you. We will care you. We will love you.”

“Te Pāti Māori is a movement that leaves no one behind, whether you are tangata whenua or a tangata Tiriti, tangata hauā, takatāpui, wāhine, tāne, rangatahi, mokopuna — you are whānau.”

He spoke of the need to reduce poverty and homelessness, before making the second of two references to his suspension from Parliament this week, then said it was time to “believe in ourselves to be proud, to be magic, and to believe in your mana”.

“I am proud of you all, I am proud of our movement, and I’m proud to head into this campaign, doing what we said we would do.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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