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Chumbawamba, Winston Peters, election expenses, recession

ANALYSIS: Labour spent more on election campaign but earned much less.

WATCH: NBR political editor Brent Edwards speaks with Grant Walker.

Brent Edwards Fri, 22 Mar 2024

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon would be tearing his hair out – if he had any – at the latest antics from his Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

Peters has managed to dominate much of the news headlines this week after making comparisons to Nazi Germany when criticising the previous Labour Government’s policy on co-governance.

He then took umbrage at news media coverage of his comments, accusing the media of getting them wrong and of treating him differently to other politicians who might make extreme comments. But Peters, while he made the comments at his ‘State of the nation’ speech as New Zealand First leader, is Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister. Anything he says will be viewed from that perspective.

And that is the problem for Luxon, who is clearly not happy but appears unable to rein in his deputy. The situation runs the risk of making Luxon look weak, as the Opposition continues to suggest that both Peters and Act leader David Seymour are running rings around him.

Meanwhile, questions must surely be raised about why Peters’ speech was scheduled for the day after he returned to New Zealand from a busy and exhausting trip as Foreign Minister, which included visiting India.

Peters was also outraged when British band Chumbawamba – which stopped performing years ago – objected to him using its hit song ‘Tubthumping’ at his political rallies.

He blamed “shrill, leftie” journalists for approaching the band. Meanwhile, band members have said they did not give permission for the song to be used by Peters and asked him to stop using it. That is not likely.

Are Winston Peters and David Seymour running rings around Prime Minister Christopher Luxon?

Election expenses

Meanwhile, the release of party expense figures from the last election campaign reveal that the Labour Party spent about $1 million more on advertising than National. In the three months, Labour spent $3.5m on advertising, just short of its election expense limit of $3.7m. National spent $2.55m but could have spent up to $3.57m under the law. Labour also received $1.29m from the broadcasting allocation and National $1.08m.

It seems strange, given last year, National raised about $2.6m in large donations and Labour raised just $680,000. In the two years before that, National also easily exceeded Labour when it came to fundraising.

Of course, the declaration by political parties only relates to the regulated election period from July 14 to October 13. It is very likely National spent much more than Labour in the months before the regulated period began. As well, these declarations do not cover donations the parties made to their electorate candidates and, in the case of National, it was a much more substantial donor to its candidates than Labour.

NBR presenter Grant Walker wonders whether, given the election result, Labour wasted its money. Possibly, but maybe its result, in which it won just 26.9% of the party vote, would have been even worse had it not spent so strongly on advertising in the election campaign. The spend-up though does likely leave the party’s finances in worse shape than National’s, which has had the benefit of significant donations over the past three years.

IMF country report

Talking of finances, the International Monetary Fund has released its latest country report on New Zealand, calling again for spending restraint to get the government books back into shape. It is clear New Zealand does not have a debt problem but, looking ahead, the IMF says more needs to be done to rein in spending and possibly raise more revenue.

As in previous years, it has also called for a comprehensive capital gains tax and a land value tax and has questioned the decision to bring back interest deductibility for landlords while scrapping depreciation deductibility for commercial and industrial building owners.

It was no surprise that the Government ruled out any suggestion it would introduce a comprehensive capital gains tax or land tax.

In something of a surprise Labour spent more on election advertising than National.

Recession

The IMF report, which also forecast growth of just 1.1% this year, came out a day before the GDP figures for the three months to the end of December were released. It recorded a 0.1% decline for the quarter, which meant – following a drop the previous quarter – that the country was in recession. It is exactly what the Reserve Bank wanted after months of raising interest rates. It should make certain that further rate rises are now off the agenda. The question now is when the Reserve Bank might start cutting rates, even as retail banks are already doing so.

Disability support

The Government also struck problems this week with announcements that there was no more money left to support disabled people.

An email sent by the Ministry for Disabled People said that, due to “financial cost pressures” on government departments, the Minister would actively enforce a set budget cap on the provision of equipment and modification services and that this would likely result in a cut in orders over the next few months.

When it was reported, it set off a chain of events that seemed to indicate confusion between the ministry and ministers, including Finance Minister Nicola Willis.

Minister for Disability Issues Penny Simmonds told RNZ that during the Covid-19 pandemic, flexibility around funding had been relaxed.

“The budget had been overrun with more than $104m spent on purchasing items, so rules needed to be tightened,” Simmonds said.

But her comments outraged a number of carers of people with disabilities.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said those caring for disabled people did not deserve to be kicked around by the Government.

“Penny Simmonds should apologise for some of the comments that she’s made about the disability community in the last 24 hours. It’s just wrong,” he told RNZ.

It was handled badly by the Government and Simmonds has work to do to win back the trust and confidence of the disability sector.

Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins.

Goodbye to politics

This week marked the end of a significant political career with former finance minister Grant Robertson giving his valedictory speech to Parliament before bowing out of politics.

Some NBR commenters are clear about their negative views of Robertson, but Walker has a more altruistic view.

“I have to say I always enjoyed interviewing him. I thought he was intelligent and a great orator,” Walker says.

But he also says that does not mean he has to agree with Robertson’s politics.

Finally, next week is going to be a busy one before Parliament rises for Easter. Legislation restoring interest deductibility for landlords, removing depreciation deductibility for commercial and industrial buildings, and introducing a gaming duty for offshore online casino operators will pass through their remaining stages, as will the legislation applying road user charges – albeit at a lower level than first proposed – on electric vehicles.

And, on Wednesday, the Budget Policy Statement – which gives the broad overview of the Government’s fiscal intentions – will be released just nine weeks before the Budget spells out all the details.


Brent Edwards is NBR’s political editor. 

Contact the Writer: brent@nbr.co.nz
News tip? Question? Typo? Let us know: editor@nbr.co.nz
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Chumbawamba, Winston Peters, election expenses, recession
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