NZ Election 2020: Why Labour's polling is at a record high, according to Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern thinks Labour's record polling is down to the Government's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

But the Prime Minister says she won't be getting complacent, treating the result with a "healthy skepticism".

Meanwhile, National says the looming prospect of NZ First not being a part of a potential Labour-led Government after the election will mean higher taxes are a "certainty". 

Sunday night's figures put Labour on 60.9 percent - the highest it's ever been in the history of the Newshub-Reid Research poll. National polled 25.1 percent, crashing since Judith Collins took over as leader.

Ardern told The AM Show on Monday she never labels polls "in a particular way... whether they're high or whether they're low".

"I always keep a healthy skepticism around polls generally. I do keep an eye on trends though. I'd like to think the trend, or at least what message we can take from this, is general support for the Government's COVID recovery and response plan. 

"But I'm never, ever complacent, and nor is the Labour Party. This is a really crucial time for New Zealand - we need to keep demonstrating that we're focused, and we'll be doing that every day of the election." 

Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien said when she first broke the news to Collins, she had a very different take - accepting the results were true, in contrast to what the party said once the results were made public.

"They know that this poll is the most accurate poll - it was at the last election. When I first spoke to [Judith Collins] and gave her those numbers she said, 'That's disappointing - we need to do better.' In the morning when she got the numbers, she was telling quite a different story."

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: The AM Show

Taxes are coming - National

Thanks to a strict lockdown - the legality of which is now being challenged in the courts - New Zealand managed to eliminate local transmission of COVID-19, which has now killed more than 650,000 people worldwide. Kiwis now enjoy far fewer restrictions than most other countries, according to Oxford University's Government Response Stringency Index.

COVID-19: Government Response Stringency Index for July 27, 2020.
COVID-19: Government Response Stringency Index for July 27, 2020. Photo credit: Our World in Data

Even Brownlee admitted New Zealand was now in a "heck of a good place" thanks to the Government's handling of the outbreak. But National now wants to steer the conversation towards the economy, positioning itself as the party better equipped to handle the recovery. 

"The underlying strength of the National Party is its long heritage of dealing with tough economic times - and we have some tough economic times coming," said Brownlee.

National finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith on Monday said the economic recovery would be put at risk if Labour and the Greens form the next Government.

"Labour has promised not to have any policy this election and so the Greens are filling the gap. The Greens announced in June they would demand a Labour-Green Government introduce new taxes on your house, your retirement funds, your business assets, and even your art - and Jacinda Ardern has refused to rule any of those new taxes out.

"Now the Greens say 'tax is love', and still Jacinda Ardern is silent."

Labour is yet to release its tax policy. The party promised ahead of the 2017 election it wouldn't introduce any new taxes during its first term, and its idea of introducing a capital gains tax was scuppered by coalition partner NZ First.

The Greens want not just a capital gains tax, but taxes on wealth. In return, those at the bottom of the income scale would get a massive boost thanks with a guaranteed minimum income of $325 - almost entirely scrapping the existing welfare system. 

The Government has borrowed upwards of $50 billion to ease the country through the economic crisis.

"I'm sure that the general public that do cast their votes will be asking, what do we want for the next three years?" said Brownlee. "Borrowing and paying out benefits, or investing heavily in our economy to get people into work?"

National borrowed during the global financial crisis to fund tax cuts, blowing debt to GDP to more than 25 percent. It was down to 19 percent before the pandemic hit, and is expected to blow out to more than 50 percent  - a level last seen in the 1990s, following the dramatic reforms of the 1980s and early 1990s. 

Associate Minister of Finance David Parker on Friday told The AM Show he's not aware of any plans to raise taxes, at least from Labour. 

" I think there are always ways to improve the tax system. At the moment it's an imperfect system, but I don't think we're going to be running on tax at this election."

He said whether they do might depend on who they end up in coalition with.