And… that’s a wrap. Parliament has held its final debate before rising ahead of the September 19 election.
Heckling peaked, as MPs delivered adjournment speeches.
While governing parties detailed their successes and opposition parties laid on the criticism, the speeches provided somewhat of a scene-setter for the upcoming campaign period.
The debate was largely serious; the Covid-19 crisis being a whopper in a chain of disasters suffered by New Zealand in recent years. What’s more, a number of long-standing issues around housing, climate change, infrastructure, and poverty have had to be addressed by this government.
But there was a “school’s out” energy, as MPs had a bit of fun lobbing pointed jibes across the House.
Here's a highlights reel of the more entertaining political bits (never fear, interest.co.nz will be back into providing election coverage through a policy lens tomorrow):
Jacinda ‘this election is not what we’d planned’ Ardern
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern kicked things off, noting around 190 pieces of legislation had been passed under the Coalition Government. This graph, put together by Radio New Zealand a few weeks ago, shows how much has gone on in this term of government.
Ardern then addressed the elephant in the room - the Labour Party’s lack of policy this close to the election.
“This election is not what we’d planned,” Ardern said.
“It is fair to say, this campaign that we’re about to embark on - it’s not the campaign that we planned and prepared for six months ago. Nor will our manifesto be the same as it would’ve been, had we released it in January of this year.
“But that is the reality of politics and the reality of this world that we’re living in right now.
“But I can tell you this, the values that we campaigned on in 2017; the aspirations that we had coming into this place remain unchanged; our plans to keep creating high wage jobs are as important now as they ever were. On supporting our job creators, on ridding this country of child poverty, on making a transition to a clean, green, carbon-neutral economy - Mr Speaker, we’ve started that journey and now we want to finish it. Let’s keep moving.”
Judith ‘farmers will always be on trend’ Collins
National Leader Judith Collins said a few ‘thank yous’, before getting stuck into Ardern.
“I've just heard the Prime Minister make what I think is going to be one of those speeches that we're going to look on and we're going to say, "Well, that was very interesting, wasn't it?", because she is going to be more famous than usual and that is going to be because she will be a one-term Labour leader.”
Collins took aim at New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters next: “This is going to be an extremely important election because it's about who is going to be best able to manage what has been described by the New Zealand Reserve Bank as the biggest economic downturn in 160 years. That is even older than our dear friend Rt Hon Winston Peters.”
Then Collins had a go at Finance Minister Grant Robertson for not having a plan.
“It's easy to close the border. It's easy to close down the economy. The hard thing is to get that economy back going again…
“So we've got the one shining light in the New Zealand economy, which is agriculture - agriculture, an industry that has been in a sector that has been bagged for years by that Government. They hated agriculture…
“Now, suddenly, farmers are back being trendy. Now, suddenly, farmers are woke. Actually, thankfully, farmers will never be woke. They'll always be on trend. And the trend is National.”
Collins repeated criticism of KiwiBuild, etc, said Labour would raise taxes and flew her flag for Resource Management Act reform, saying the new pieces of legislation she would replace it with would look “entirely different” to what “that lot” is proposing.
Collins then had a final dig at Peters: “He'll tell you he's a handbrake on them. No, he's not. He's the enabler. There's only one reason the Greens are in government, and that's because Mr Peters went their way.”
Winston ‘I'll be around long after you're gone’ Peters
Peters began his speech with a ripper in response: “That was eyebrow-raising stuff - and I don't use Botox! All that criticism, for almost 10 minutes, and not one new idea.
“Out there in the provinces, in the hamlets of this country, all those people who were expecting something at least now, at the start of this campaign, from the leader of the National Party just got carp, can't, and criticism, but no vision, no plan, no policy.
“Worse still, after nine years of doing nothing about the Resource Management Act, she says we're at fault.”
When a National MP interjected, saying “Goodbye” to Peters, he hit back: “I'll be around long after you're gone, sunshine, and I was here for decades before you arrived.”
Peters said he had “no regrets” about forming a government with Labour and the Greens, saying: “We were never forced to agree. If we did, we wouldn't be three separate parties…
“The Prime Minister announced that we've got over 190 bills passed. That suggests that we have got by on agreeing on most of the things, or, if we couldn't, that we got to a compromise and got there in the end.”
He continued ripping into both National and ACT, saying this government inherited “nine years of neo-liberal neglect”.
“The National Party may be making a comeback sometime, but it's not any time soon.”
James ‘there's at least 5% in it’ Shaw
Unlike Peters, Green Party Co-Leader James Shaw didn’t hold back voicing his frustration over the compromises necessary when in a coalition government.
“I know everybody here is champing at the bit to get out and campaign around the country; trying out their new election slogans,” he said.
“There's Labour: "Let's keep moving", New Zealand First: "Let's not". You could almost see the advertisements, can't you: "New Zealand First: you can stop progress."
“ACT are making a serious play for the assault rifle vote: "The ACT Party: more deadly than serious."
“National, of course, have settled on a new leader with a new slogan: "Why vote for the lesser evil?"…
“National want to grow the pie, Labour want to share the pie, ACT want you to get your own God damn pie, New Zealand First want a billion pies, and the Greens, of course, say that the growth of the pie is constrained by the size of the oven, and whilst you're making pie, perhaps you should keep your oven clean, otherwise your tamariki will get really sick.
“Look, I know that's not exactly bumper sticker material, but we reckon there's at least 5% in it.”
Shaw said, 15 minutes before he delivered his adjournment speech in 2017, he found out the Greens were polling at only 3.5%.
“Well, 10 weeks later we were in Government, and four weeks after that I met the Pope. So I'm just saying, a lot of things can happen in the final six weeks of an election campaign, and I am mostly saying that to give the National Party a good dose of false hope for themselves…”
David ‘we require problem solving’ Seymour
ACT Leader David Seymour was lighter on humour, pointing out how against a backdrop of global uncertainty, “people's faith in our politics in this Parliament is at an all-time low ebb”.
“It's been one disaster after another,” he said.
“I think it's fair to say that we have a disaster Government led by a disaster Prime Minister, because, if it wasn't for the disasters, what we would have is a long series of let downs, where everything the parties over there promised in 2017 has been a failure.
“Let me say that that's not a personal critique; I happen to like our Prime Minister as a person, and I admire what she's done holding people together at critical times of disaster. That's not the problem.
“The problem is that the world is changing, and a different style of leadership is required. We require problem solving…
“I believe that this country deserves an open debate, not a state of fear; asking what we can do, not what we can't; going country by country when it comes to the border; working together with, not against, the private sector; and embracing technology to augment our public health response.”
Seymour reiterated his concerns about government debt.
He concluded his speech, referencing ACT’s relatively strong poll results: “I look forward to a group of independent-minded, thoughtful ACT MPs sitting across here, on the cross-benches, supporting a Government far more competent than the one that we have now.”