Live updates: NZ Election 2020 - Jacinda Ardern vs. Judith Collins in their first TV debate before Decision 2020

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and National leader Judith Collins are going head-to-head in their first televised debate before the election on October 17. 

What you need to know:

  • The big issues facing Ardern and Collins include soaring house prices, rising unemployment, climate change, tax hikes or cuts, managing the border during a pandemic, and how to bring us out of recession.
  • The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll had Labour at 60.9 percent against National on 25.1 percent. A new Colmar Brunton poll has Labour on 48 percent and National on 31 percent. 
  • The latest Newshub poll showed Ardern on 62 percent as preferred Prime Minister, ahead of Collins on 14.6 percent. The new Colmar Brunton poll has Ardern at 54 percent and Collins on 18 percent. 
  • The Newshub poll found that a clear majority - 62.3 percent - trust Labour led by Ardern to run the economy, compared to 26.5 percent who trust National led by Collins to steer us through the economic slump.   
  • Collins has revealed she plans to confront Ardern during tonight's TVNZ debate with "what she hasn't done", because the Labour leader "made some big promises and most of them she hasn't kept". 
  • Ardern says she expects Collins to bring up KiwiBuild failures during the debate, "because if that's her one attack, I'm happy to take it, because I'm proud of our record". 
  • Also follow Newshub's coverage of the ASB Great Debate, hosted by Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien, where political party finance spokespeople lay out their economic visions.

These live updates have now finished. 

8:52pm - Who do you think performed best in tonight's debate - Jacinda Ardern or Judith Colllins? You can vote in our have your say poll.  

8:47pm - The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked if she was happy with NZ First's poor polling and the prospect of Winston Peters not making it back into Parliament. She said she expected Peters to campaign the way he had and defended their record as a coalition. 

8:42pm - Collins says she enjoyed the debate and wished it had gone on for another hour. "If they get any better than that then fantastic." The National leader says she thinks she won the debate. 

"I certainly didn't feel like I was losing."

8:40pm - Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins are facing the media  after the live debate.  

8:30pm - Political scientist Jennifer Lees-Marshment said Collins was more effective in the debate than Ardern, because the Labour leader "lacked passion".

"Ardern lacked passion," she said. "Where's the passion? Where's the heart? She was more defensive than we would expect, Ardern."

But she said Collins still had her weaknesses.

"That's their problem they don't talk enough about themselves. Stop criticising Labour because it looks foolish," she said.

But she said Ardern needs to step up next time.

"Ardern was very, almost academic, but we wouldn't expect her to be like that. Something was up tonight."

8:27pm - In her closing statement, Collins said voters are facing a "stark contrast" between Labour offering "hopeful thoughts and statements" against National which "has a plan".

"Vote for us, because we're the ones who get stuff done," she said, highlighting how National will prioritise scrapping the RMA to make building consent easier.

Ardern in her closing statement said it has been a "tough time" for New Zealand, facing a terrorist attack, a deadly volcano eruption and a pandemic.

"We've been able to clear high hurdles and face huge challenges because Labour has a plan that is already making a difference," she said.

"You need strong and stable Government to keep delivering on that plan. Now is the time to keep moving."

8:24pm - Collins said the thing she's most concerned about is that 400 Kiwis are losing their job every day.

"We've got a plan to get people back into work," she said. "That's why we need to build. That's why we supported fast-tracking consents."

Ardern said her plan for the future will give people as much certainty as possible.

She said her plan is to build infrastructure to create jobs, as well as jobs for the environment, which she described as "double duty".

On the topic of welfare, Collins said she would not roll back the welfare increases that National's ally ACT has proposed.

Ardern said the changes she has made have already made around welfare increases have a big difference, but she acknowledged that there is always more to do.

"There is more do to. We won't do it overnight. It has been built over decades."

Collins said children are still living in material hardship and said that's the measure that counts, despite Ardern saying seven out of the nine measures of child poverty are better.

"I am not done on child poverty," Ardern said.

8:09pm - The next topic of the debate is agriculture and farming.

Collins said she would support farmers to farm sustainably and profitably by backing them by talking to them first about what they plan to do. She said farming in New Zealand represents 0.2 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.

Ardern said the world wants to know that New Zealand is producing agriculture products sustainably, and she said she's proud to have worked alongside the community for a plan to tax emissions.

Collins hit back saying, "Farmers aren't feeling like that. Farmers are feeling like they're bagged by this Government."

Ardern said, "That feels to me like a world that has passed."

Collins said farmers are "already the climate change warriors" and are already some of the world's "most efficient" and should be treated better.

Ardern said the Government needs to work together with the farming community.

She said the reality is 48 percent of New Zealand's emissions come from agriculture.

Collins said food production needs to be protected, like National secured in the Paris Agreement when it was in Government. 

She criticised the current Government for not advocating enough for electric vehicles, pointing out how it promised to have its fleet of 15,000 electric, but only about 108 are.

7:58pm - Collins criticised Labour for spending money on retrofitting state houses.

"You might as well just build a new house," she said. "Let's be real here you need new houses."

She also reiterated National's opposition to rental regulations, which is among the first things it would scrap if it wins power in October.

7:57pm - Ardern said she hasn't given up on the idea of a capital gains tax but she acknowledged that voters didn't seem keen on the idea.

"I've tried for three elections now," she said.

Collins said she would not try to tax New Zealand out of a recession.

"KiwiSaver gets captured by the capital gains tax," she said, adding that she doesn't think voters would be happy with capital gains being clipped in ways they might not expect.

7:51pm - Ardern and Collins have been asked about how they plan to tackle wealth inequality and the pressures on low income households.

Ardern said state house building needs to continue, the minimum wage needs to keep going up, and the living wage needs to be applied to workers.

Collins said she thinks the Resource Management Act (RMA) is the problem for getting new houses built, but host John Campbell questioned whether she had answered the question.

Ardern said there will be some families who have the income to support a mortgage, but building a deposit is the hardest thing - she pointed to the Government's progressive home ownership scheme, which is the revamped KiwiBuild programme.

Ardern criticised the previous National-led Government for selling off state houses.

Collins said many of the state houses the Government has taken the credit for were in the pipeline when National was in Government.

7:46pm - Collins has acknowledged that National's proposed tax cuts will not give a lot of money to low income workers.

"It's not enormous," she said.

But Collins said the purpose of the tax cuts is to give middle income earners a break with the aim of stimulating the economy during the COVID-19 economic slump.

Ardern criticised National for planning to take the money out of the Government's COVID-19 recovery fund.

"I shouldn't get a tax cut right now. It's simply irresponsible," Ardern said.

Collins shot back, "Well give it back then."

"Now is not the time to have huge uncertainty about tax," Ardern said.

Ardern said Labour will keeping lifting the minimum wage, but Collins said businesses cannot afford it, and said money needs to be given to Kiwis to spend in those businesses.

"People will spend it," she said.

Ardern talked up the Government's investment in infrastructure, describing the billions of dollars in infrastructure spending combined with free trades and apprenticeships training as a "double whammy".

Collins said Ardern is ignoring the tech sector. National is promising scholarships for low decile schools to study maths, science and engineering.

Ardern responded, "Let's be realistic, there are barriers to opportunities now."

She said Labour's policy of first year fees free at university means there is a first generation of students going into higher education.

But Labour has backtracked on its promise of making the second year free.

7:34pm - Ardern and Collins have been asked about how they plan to help young people.

Collins said her husband was taken out of school at the age of 15, which she said is the reality for many kids when their parents don't have enough money.

Ardern said she doesn't want any young person feeling like they have to leave school. She said it's important to make sure their family members earn enough.

She mentioned the importance of the Government paying the living wage to workers and increasing the minimum wage.

Collins said businesses cannot afford constant increases to the minimum wage.

Labour plans to increase it to $20 in 2021.

7:28pm - Collins ruled out giving the vote to 16 year olds, while Ardern said she would wait and see, and mentioned how she would like to see young people involved in civics education. 

Collins responded, "It's like cannabis, she can't say."

7:26pm - Ardern says the country needs to prepare for climate change.

She mentioned Labour's commitment to pumped hydro so New Zealand can become powered by 100 percent renewable electricity.

Collins said $30 million on a business case for pumped hydro is "ridiculous". She said power prices will go up because of Labour's energy plan.

Ardern said it will help to deal with New Zealand's drought years.

"We have to be both realistic and hopeful," Ardern said. "Climate change is upon us. We have to grasp this opportunity."

Collins said the bigger issue is that people are losing their jobs.

7:22pm - Ardern and Collins have been asked how they plan to deal with DHB debt, a $180 million deficit in Canterbury.

Ardern said Canterbury has dealt with significant challenges from the earthquakes and March 15. She said $900 million was pumped into DHBs.

Collins said there is clearly not enough money going into some parts of the system. She said it is "pretty obvious" DHBs need more money.

Collins said "we may have to" excuse the debt.

Ardern said New Zealand's infrastructure deficit has not had a consistent pipeline and there is also a skill shortage. She said it is "not for lack of significant investment".

Over $900 million was put into DHBs at the last Budget.

Ardern criticised National's fiscal plan and how it plans to spend less than Labour on health and education.

Collins pointed out that National is planning to spend $31 billion on infrastructure and $4.2 billion for schools. 

"It's important that we do this."

7:13pm - Ardern and Collins are debating the border. 

Ardern said the tough COVID-19 restrictions have allowed the economy to keep ticking over and get Kiwis' lives "back to normality". 

"Yes, we have a stamp it out regime," she said, adding that it's how we can get back to normal as soon as possible. 

Collins said private companies should be allowed to provide managed isolation "as long as we are certain they are fulfilling their requirements", and she thinks more people should be allowed across the border to work in New Zealand. 

Ardern said 50,000 people have come through the border so far and there have only been eight incidents of people escaping the facilities. 

She talked about how Labour plans to open up the border to more people slowly, with Labour's promise of 10 percent of space in MIQ going towards essential workers. 

But Collins said that's not enough. 

7:07pm - Ardern says she doesn't take it for granted that Labour could govern alone on the latest poll numbers, and she says it would go against the MMP system.

7:05pm - Collins says she will never give up, in light of a new Colmar Brunton poll that has her opponent far ahead of her as preferred Prime Minister. 

7pm - Collins has given her pitch to New Zealanders, saying if she was Prime Minister she would focus on the economy, boosting technology and trying to keep people in New Zealand.

Ardern also gave her pitch, focusing on investing in people, looking after the environment and supporting growth in the economy. She said she understands there is uncertainty but says we need optimism.

6:51pm - The Government is being labelled 'callous' for charging people in emergency housing a quarter of their income. As Newshub's Anna Bracewell-Worrall reports from the campaign trail, Labour's facing questions over what it'll do to solve the housing crisis.

Watch the video below. 

6:50pm - Collins has arrived at the TVNZ debate in Auckland followed by the 'debt monster', a character the right-wing Taxpayer's Union describes as a reminder to politicians that "today's promises are paid for by tomorrow's taxpayers, with interest".

6pm - A new Colmar Brunton poll has revealed Labour on 48 percent, National on 31 percent, ACT on 7 percent, the Greens on 6 percent and New Zealand First on 2 percent.

  • Labour - 48 percent
  • National - 31 percent
  • ACT - 7 percent
  • Greens - 6 percent
  • NZ First - 2 percent
  • New Conservative - 2 percent
  • The Opportunities Party (TOP) - 1 percent
  • Māori Party - 1 percent
  • Advance NZ - 1 percent
  • Don't know - 14 percent

Labour has dropped 5 points but could still govern alone with 62 seats.

Ardern is also still popular as preferred Prime Minister on 54 percent, compared to Collins on 18 percent, with NZ First leader Winston Peters on 2 percent and ACT leader David Seymour also on 2 percent.

Read more here

5:51pm - Collins has uploaded a photo of herself reading her notes before the TV debate tonight. She captioned the image saying "it's going to be fun".

5:50pm - A video featuring Ardern and Labour MP Kieran McAnulty, in which he gives his party leader a ride in his ute, has racked up more than 28,000 views since it was uploaded earlier on Tuesday.

In the video Ardern speaks to McAnulty's mum on the phone as they drive to Masterton on the election campaign trail.

5:40pm - Political commentator and former Labour chief of Staff under Andrew Little, Neal Jones, has described Collins on Twitter as "the underdog" and believes she could perform well in the debate tonight.

"People shouldn't write off Judith Collins for tonight's debate. The underdog can surprise - and heaven knows Collins has to if she wants to stay in the race," Jones said.

He pointed to 2014 when former Labour leader David Cunliffe came out on top in a TV debate against the popular former National leader Sir John Key. 

5:20pm - National's fiscal hole has grown by billions more, according to Stuff. 

National seems to have twice counted the $3.9 billion left over from the New Zealand Upgrade package, an infrastructure plan announced by the Government in late January.

National's finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith has told Stuff the missing billions will come from reallocating money collected in fuel taxes and road user charges.

It comes after a $4 billion hole was revealed in National's fiscal plan on Sunday, after Goldsmith used the wrong numbers in calculating how much it would save from halting NZ Super Fund contributions.

Goldsmith acknowledged the mistake and described it as an "irritating mistake".

But Newshub revealed the next day that National made the same mistake with its capital allowance, that's the money put aside to build things like schools and hospitals, leaving National with another shortfall of $88 million.

4:15pm - Ardern expects Collins to attack the Government's KiwiBuild programme when they go-head in their first televised debate ahead of the election. 

"We will see the leader of the Opposition tonight play a bit of bingo and you'll likely hear that word KiwiBuild frequently because if that's her one attack, I'm happy to take it, because I'm proud of our record," Ardern said in Auckland. 

KiwiBuild was one of Labour's flagship policies. The plan was to build 1000 homes in the first year, 5000 in the second, and 10,000 the year after. The promise was to have 100,000 houses built within the decade. 

The reality has been way off, with just 452 KiwiBuild homes completed as of August. The Government ditched the KiwiBuild targets last year and recalibrated the programme with a shift towards progressive homeownership. 

"My view would be that we've been a Government that, having inherited some significant issues, have made huge progress. No Government has built as many houses as we have since the 1970s," Ardern said. 

"Yes, we tried new things because we had a housing crisis and I will stand by trying new things in order to improve the wellbeing of our communities. 

"Not all of them have worked as well as we intended, and some have paid a significant price for that. But that is not a reason to do what the last Government did and ignore the problem and hope it will go away."

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern told reporters in Auckland she expects to be attacked on KiwiBuild failures when she goes up against National leader Judith Collins.
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern told reporters in Auckland she expects to be attacked on KiwiBuild failures when she goes up against National leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub

4pm - Ardern is defending her Government's record ahead of her first TV debate with Collins. 

"Seven out of the nine child poverty indicators have improved under this Government and that's only been in the short time that we've been in. Am I finished? Absolutely not," she said. 

"But every one of those children we've lifted out of poverty that has been because we've done something to improve the incomes of their families, whether it's lifting the minimum wage which for families means over $100 a week better off, whether it's because we've built new state houses.

"The last time I was at the Auckland City Mission I had multiple family members tell me they were in a new-build because of the work we'd done, and they were warm and dry now.

"Is there more to do? Yes, but that doesn't mean we haven't made progress. We have to focus on lifting the incomes of families - that's how we overcome these issues. We need more than one term to do that, and that's why we of course are seeking re-election."

3:15pm - Collins has revealed her tactic ahead of her TV debate with Ardern, telling Magic Talk she will remind her opponent of "what she hasn't done" during her time as Prime Minister. 

Collins said Ardern "had it easy" at the last election because she "had no track record", telling Magic Talk: "She made some big promises and most of them she hasn't kept so I'll be reminding her of what she hasn't done." 

But Collins was reminded of a topic Ardern could use against her - National's $4 billion fiscal hole, which Newshub revealed has increased by $88 million

Collins brushed it off, saying, "There are lots of things people make mistakes about."

It comes as National revealed plans to bring more skilled and essential workers into the country by allowing private accommodation providers to become approved managed isolation services for returnees. 

National would also investigate streamlined travel arrangements for low-risk countries and territories, and set up a booking system for managed isolation facilities to manage more arrivals into New Zealand. 

Collins told Magic Talk it's impossible to keep the country closed forever, "but at the same time we don't want COVID in".

You can read more about National's border policy here

Labour has also announced plans to allow more skilled workers into New Zealand, up to 30 veterinarians, 570 deep sea fishing crew, and 210 agricultural and horticultural mobile plant operators.

You can read more about Labour's border policy here