Analysis - With more than 16 minutes of ads spread in four blocks across the hour, and five leaders to bounce ideas and insults
off one another, last night's debate
made for frantic, fractured viewing.
It saw ACT's David Seymour, the Green Party's James Shaw, NZ First's Winston Peters, the Māori Party's John Tamihere and
Advance NZ's Jami-Lee Ross face off over - among other things - Covid-19, vaccines, debt, and the influence of China.
TVNZ political editor Jessica Mutch McKay did a reasonable job of keeping the five men in suits in reasonable order, but
none of them ever really got much time to elaborate.
When they did, an interruption would often lead to the interruptor taking centre stage, often derailing the conversation
to another topic entirely.
That did not suit Seymour.
"I would've liked there to have been more order and a bit more time to get each person's policy across and less
interruption," he said afterwards.
"Of course, if you get cut off by the moderator and you were just about to explain what the policy was, that's very
frustrating and that can lead to some real backchat."
Shaw was similarly put off.
"This kind of format, you do tend to get a few people shouting over each other. I actually don't suspect that does them
any favours and that's not really my style," he said.
"I'm happy to keep my dignity and not participate in a shouting match, I think shouting over each other and being loud
and obnoxious is a sign of weakness, not strength."
Despite the difficulty of getting their point across, that strength on stage Shaw alludes to may prove to be a vital
lifeline for his party, which lost a percentage point - down to 6 percent - in last night's Colmar Brunton poll.
With polls historically predicting the Greens higher than their actual election result, he admits every vote counts.
"We do know that we need to get everybody that supports the Green Party to a polling booth to make sure that they
absolutely vote," he said. "I would be comfortable with a few points more. We are not being complacent."
Indeed, the debate began with Shaw and Peters both positioning themselves as the potential conscience of a governing
Labour, with Shaw making what might be the Greens' clearest ultimatum so far.
"The Green Party will work in partnership with Labour ... if the Greens don't make it back in we will run the risk that
one party will have all the power. Our planet is running out of time."
Peters, whose party was polling at 2 percent, as usual rubbished the numbers. New Zealand First does tend to poll better
on election day, and he said he was confident the party is in great shape.
Neither person charged can be identified but the SFO has confirmed they are not ministers, sitting MPs, candidates,
staffers or current members of New Zealand First.
"We're not going to have trial by media or trial by the mob in this country ... out there are fair-minded New Zealanders
who know for a start that every member of my party has been exonerated.
"I have welcomed the Serious Fraud Office inquiry from day one, and I welcome its outcome. Let me tell you one thing -
I've got rid of two former Serious Fraud [Office] leaders - two, not one - and I'm not concerned about this at all."
Tamihere said the Māori Party would not work with National - only Labour. He spoke well and cut through the policy
chatter somewhat with personal anecdotes and a focus on the plight of Māori.
"We can't participate in the economy because the basic education system in this country does not get us work ready
regardless of what it is. So what we've got to do in the Māori Party is just speak our truth, which is that we want our
children educated the same as kids in decile nine and 10 schools, and why is that wrong?"
Seymour was as usual strong on debt reduction, but asked if an austerity budget would be a bottom line if it had the
opportunity to form a coalition, danced around the question until asked a third time.
"It clearly is a bottom line if that's the way you want to play it."
He later said infrastructure was important but there was "no silver bullet for economic redevelopment", a line Mutch
McKay said Peters had used during one of the many ad breaks.
Seymour said he must have got the silver bullet from the silver fox. Peters says Australia two days ago brought in a
budget against austerity. He said Seymour was spouting the same old neoliberal rubbish "with training wheels on".
For his part, Ross - who advocates learning to live with the virus instead of keeping the borders closed - largely
targeted the government's response to Covid-19, and repeated the misinformation spread by his party that the virus has
about the same fatality rate as the flu.
While TVNZ did not correct him on air, they did send out a tweet.
FACT CHECK: The population fatality rate of Covid-19 in the US, which has the highest number of cases & deaths in the world, is 0.064 per cent, according to Johns Hopkins data. The fatality rate of influenza in the US is
0.002 per cent, according to the CDC. #YourVote2020 #nzpol
— 1 NEWS (@1NewsNZ) October 8, 2020
He was also asked if he had the credentials to be in Parliament, considering accusations of bullying he has faced as an
MP and his involvement in the National Party donations saga. Ross and three other men - Zhang Yikun, Zheng Shijia and
Zheng Hengjia - are facing charges
He said he was innocent until proven guilty. He said Labour and National were both bought and sold by Chinese Communist
Party money, and asserted he was on track to win the Te Tai Tokerau seat.