Election 2020: Jacinda Ardern says she hasn’t thought about being in Opposition

With five days until election day, Jacinda Ardern says she is focused solely on getting Labour back into power and has not given a thought to being in Opposition.

Ardern would not say this morning whether she would stay on in the unlikely event of a Labour loss, which would probably require both NZ First and the Greens to fall short.

“I actually don’t want to get into the point of speculating about what’s going to happen to any of the minor parties,” she told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB.

“But nor have I got into a situation of declaring what would happen if we weren’t successful.

“My focus has to be on the last five days of getting Labour into a good position.”

Ardern said she was not concerned about the possible risks of Labour governing alone, such as having no coalition partners in three years’ time.

“What I have been taking to the electorate and to voters is that I do want a strong mandate … because I want an absolute focus on our recovery.

“It is fair to say in an MMP environment that multiple different parties can slow things down.

“That is not to say that there aren’t things that can be drawn from consensus building, and I will build consensus on the big issues. But I also want a strong mandate.”

Ardern made the comments in a wide-ranging, two-hour interview with Hosking this morning as part of the Leaders Breakfast series.

In the interview, she categorically ruled out adopting the Green Party’s wealth tax, saying that the major party in a coalition would drive policy, especially tax proposals.

Labour’s own proposed top tax rate would affect people earning more than $180,000, and she said that most New Zealanders would consider people in this bracket “wealthy”.

Ardern also said the Greens were not to be feared.

“You hear a lot of fearmongering at election time, often from the National Party, but people need to just look at the reality of the last three years. They’ve already seen them in Government.”

She did not want to “eulogise” about NZ First, which on current polling would not make it back into Parliament. She instead focused on their contribution to the Coalition Government, saying they had made a valuable contribution to regional New Zealand, mainly through the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund.

“Credit where credit’s due,” she said.

Ardern said Judith Collins was a “very different” opponent to her rival in 2017, Bill English – mainly because her late entry to the contest meant she did not know her as well.

But she said she respected anyone who took an Opposition party into a campaign, especially when that party was in the rebuilding phase.

“It is not an easy job, particularly when you’ve got a bit of transition and rebuilding.”

Ardern defended the depth of her Cabinet team and ministers who were considered poorer performers, in particular Phil Twyford and Kelvin Davis.

Twyford had progressed key transport networks like the Puhinui Station in Auckland and the Eastern Busway, she said. Davis had safely achieved Labour’s goal of reducing the prison population.

“My team’s been consistent, it hasn’t lost 19 members,” she said, referring to the large number of National MPs departing at the election.

She would not rule out keeping Chris Hipkins in both the large health and education portfolios.

Much of the interview focused on Covid-19 and New Zealand’s economic recovery.

Ardern said she would not rule out New Zealanders being able to travel internationally in 2021. Some Australian states were at a similar low-risk threat level to New Zealand.

She said one of the key debates around a vaccine was not whether it would be available but about how it would be distributed.

“We’ve got irons in a number of fires on this because there are multiple vaccinations so we want to make sure we are in queue for each.

“Some are in the queue for early 2021, but a lot of water has to go under the bridge.”

Ardern said there was no “silver bullet” to rebuild New Zealand after Covid-19, saying that her focus would be on supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs, investing in exporters, and leading trade missions into China, the United States and Europe – because exports would be crucial to the recovery.

While on the campaign trail, Ardern said the issue of Ihumātao had not been prominent – just one person had raised it.

She rejected Hosking’s suggestion that a secret deal had been made with iwi over the South Auckland site which would be confirmed if Labour won the election.

Any agreement had stalled because of opposition from NZ First, she said. It was also more complicated that a year ago, when protesters occupied the historic site, because there were heritage issues to be resolved. It should never had been designated a Special Housing Area, she said.

Ardern said her bottom line for Ihumātao was that it did not “unravel” existing Treaty settlements.

“Any gifting of land would be problematic in that regard.”

The Labour leader also spoke frankly about New Zealand’s foreign policy, saying it needed to diversify beyond China.

The EU trade agreement had been important in this regard, and talks had started with post-Brexit UK.

Asked by Hosking whether China was “Machiavellian”, she said: “No more so than some of the other engagements that we have.”

She added: “We have seen a change in strategy from the United States. When you discuss the idea of actually fair taxation for global operators there’s a suggestion there you’ll be hit with trade consequences.”

Ardern also spoke briefly about specific policy plans. Three strikes would be scrapped, she said, because it led to perverse outcomes and she wanted judges to be able to decide sentences rather than being given prescribed outcomes.

Fair pay agreements – which set minimum standards for pay, redundancy and overtime – were still on the table, because her party wanted to “avoid a race to the bottom” for working conditions.

Source: Read Full Article