NZ Election 2020: ASB Great Debate live updates - Grant Robertson, Paul Goldsmith, David Seymour, James Shaw, Fletcher Tabuteau

Jacinda Ardern v Judith Collins isn't the only political debate voters can look forward to this Tuesday night.

At 7pm, ASB and the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce are hosting The ASB Great Debate at the Queenstown Memorial Centre, hosted by Newshub Political Editor Tova O'Brien.

It's a finance debate featuring Labour's Grant Robertson, National's Paul Goldsmith, the Greens' James Shaw, Act's David Seymour and New Zealand First's Fletcher Tabuteau.

With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on Aotearoa's economy, forcing the Government to spend tens of billions to keep Kiwis employed and the country's wheels in motion, parties' economic plans for the future are more important than ever.

Newshub will be live-updating the event so you'll be informed at the voting box on October 17.

8:35pm - That brings an end to the debate. Thanks for following along. We will put the full debate in the video component above soon.

8:30pm -  We are on to final speeches. 

Robertson says we need stability, continuity and a clear economic plan. What we now need to do is invest in people, support job creation and small businesses, trade with global partners, and future-proofing our economy. 

Goldsmith is proud of New Zealand and what we have achieved as a country. He says Kiwis have a choice between Labour with higher taxes, extra costs for businesses and lots of government programmes, and National with its stimulus, decreasing depreciation, and making it easier for businesses to take on new employees.

Shaw wraps up by saying that the Greens are stable and responsible as a partner with Labour. He wants the country to think ahead about long-term issues as well as the COVID crisis.

Tabuteau's message is that NZ First has proven itself in terms of confidence and stability. He says the government has invested in the regions. New Zealand doesn't have a Capital Gains Tax because of NZ First, he says. New Zealand First would hold Labour and the Greens to account.

Seymour says a Capital Gains Tax wasn't being discussed until NZ First put Labour into power. He says the world has changed and our country must change too. Act has been consistent and constructive, he says. 

He says Labour can do the dance, but not the delivery. Act can do both, Seymour says.

8:20pm - Tabuteau says we must be thinking about pivoting and communicating to New Zealanders to travel domestically.

The next questioner asks how the Government came to the decision to shut down the country and if there was a cost-analysis. 

Robertson says the best economic response is the best health response and that the economic cost was constantly thought about throughout the alert level change process.

8:15pm - Seymour says we must have ambition, but we can't do "incredibly stupid things". He doesn't support the Zero Carbon Act. 

The next question is about the $400m tourism package and should governments choose winners and losers in the industry. Robertson says that's not the only way tourism operators are being supported. He mentions that small business loans.

Seymour says the tourism package was a joke and wasn't well managed.

Goldsmith calls the scheme "arbitrary". Under National's proposed tax policy, more people will have money to come to Queenstown to spend cash at tourism sites, he says.

Shaw doesn't believe most of the money will flow to tourism operators. The Greens co-leader says we have to think to the future and the new normal for tourism.

8:10pm - A business owner says what happens when the work and holiday visas end. Robertson says the Government is wanting to extend them and continue to do that.

He says we should support people who have lost their jobs to be redeployed into other sectors.

The next person asks how candidates will fight climate change.

Tabuteau says NZ First has committed to carbon zero and the emissions trading scheme. Smart business is about being environmentally sound and having sustainable practise. That's a sale pitch to the rest of the world, he says.

The New Zealand First member calls the 100 percent renewable target aspirational. If you go far too, far soon, the cost of energy will be prohibitive, he says.

Shaw says its a shame that having committed to the Zero Carbon Act, NZ First blocked policies that would have made a difference to the country's emissions profile. He says transport, energy, and sustainable agriculture must be a focus.

National's Goldsmith says there has been an increase in coal over the last three years, pointing to it as an example of the rhetoric not matching the action. The party supports the "broad thrust" of the Government's climate actions, but National wants continued focus on scientific solutions.

He says the number one issue for people, including younger people, now is jobs.

Robertson says Shaw has worked incredibly hard over this term. We need to invest in new technology like hydrogen and ramping up the roll out of electric cars. He says the ground work has been laid over the last three years.

But he is disappointed by Goldsmith's imagination. He says we should capitalise on being a clean, green country. 

8:05pm - Shaw says one-in-three of our armed forces are stationed at the border at the moment, alongside police and health officials. He says there isn't a shortage of buildings, but there needs to be a lot of human resources which we can't spread thin.

For the next 12-24 months, the tourism industry will be primarily domestic, Shaw says. That means we need to maintain an elimination strategy.

We are now moving to some audience questions.

8pm - Robertson says policy work on the trans-Tasman bubble is being completed. Both countries are moving to a position to before the Melbourne and Auckland outbreaks.

While it's not perfect, Robertson says the border system is working incredibly well. He won't be flexible on the health and safety of New Zealanders. It's the Government's responsibility to keep people safe.

Tabuteau says everyone wants international tourists back, but he doesn't want to see our border system compromised. It's easy to talk about opening up the borders in Opposition, Tabuteau says, but it will be communities like Queenstown that have to deal with the ramifications.

Seymour says the Government isn't moving to make smart decisions. He accuses National of taking some of their policies, but says he didn't do their economic plan numbers. The ACT leader says the private sector can do managed isolation if the rules are set right.

7:55pm - Shaw says there is a real opportunity in the digital sector and because of our current restricted movement globally, we should invest in it. People being displaced because of the COVID-19 pandemic should be involved in the sector.

When it comes to productivity and tourism, what would help would be some tourists, Seymour says. Instead of discussing what we can't do, we should think about what we can, he says.

The spokespersons are asked what they would do to open the borders safely without a vaccine.

Goldsmith says we need to restore faith in how the borders are managed. There has been a big gap between rhetoric and reality, he says. It's important to test for the virus before people come here and set up an agency focused on the border, Goldsmith says. National also wants a focus on COVID-19 technology.

7:45pm - Tabuteau says we need to be sensible with debt and accuses National and Act of austerity. 

Goldsmith says to improve our productivity, we need to invest in quality infrastructure. He mentions the need for people to get across cities quickly. Low taxes and a predictable government is important to business confidence. 

He claims the current Government is unpredictable, noting the oil and gas decision and the lack of certainty around land at Ihumatao.

Robertson says the Government brought in its free apprenticeship scheme and that is seeing results. Productivity is a long-term challenge, he says. Skills, research and development, infrastructure all require funding, Robertson says. 

7:40pm - Shaw says our previous low debt-to-GDP ratio came at the cost of not dealing with critcical infrastructure. He says, given that we are running up debt, we must invest it in sustainable infrastructure and things that benefit the next generation.

Tabuteau says National took out massive debt to get the country out of the GFC and focused on growing the population. We are now paying the cost, he says.

The ACT Party leader calls Robertson a "spendaholic". Seymour says ACT's plan has $76b of savings without touching health and education. 

Robertson interjects mentioning what ACT would cut, such as SuperFund contributions. 

Goldsmith says National would cut the fees-free policy. 

7:35pm - Tabuteau is asked is what could future coalition agreements look like, but Shaw jumpes in saying that is a hyopthetical question considering NZ First's polling results.

Tabuteau says the PGF has been turned into a political football, but it is important for our rural communities to be strong. Keeping the PGF post-election is important for the party, he says.

Goldsmith says debt is an issue for New Zealand and borrowing is appropriate. But how you plan over the next decade is important. National's plan is to get debt-to-GDP to 36 percent by 2033/34, compared to 48 percent under the current Government track. 

Robertson says we must be careful with spending. That's why the Government kept $14b aside. Maintaining support for critical services is also important. He doesn't believe Act and National's plans allow for keeping spending at required levels. Seymour calls that rubbish.

7:30pm - Seymour says Robertson has taken us to a place where a billion dollars doesn't matter as much as it once did. Robertson jumps in asking Seymour if he would not have introduced a wage subsidy. Seymour says he would have.

Seymour calls Robertson fiscally irresponsible and mentions the funding of the Green School.

Shaw says Seymour said we needed to be honest about the debt problem and the Green co-leader agrees. He mentions how house prices are surging and the median wage is down.

Stimulus is flowing through wage earners and into inflated asset prices, Shaw says. He calls it a hyped-up version of what happened during the GFC. He says people on wages will be paying back the debt.

Robertson inherited massive surpluses from the former National Government, Goldsmith says.

7:25pm - The speeches are now over and Goldsmith is being asked to explain National's fiscal hole. The National Party spokesperson says the party made a mistake and it has now been fixed. It won't make a difference to the party's policy. He says they have a "credible plan".

The hard copy of PREFU was originally incorrect, which Robertson says was a printer's error.

Goldsmith says Labour's plan is to put taxes up and to make things harder for businesses.

Robertson is now saying there is a fundamental flaw in National's plan. They will reduce revenue, increase spending and increase the pace of paying back debt.

"Those three things don't add up. Paul, your plan doesn't add up."

7:20pm - Seymour begins his speech with a tribute to Kate Sheppard, who fought for women getting the vote. He says that was achieved with free speech. He calls her a great orator.

Seymour says we need to confront the fact that New Zealand didn't go hard and early in beating COVID-19 and that our contact tracing wasn't up to standard.

Seymour says we need to stop comparing ourselves to the worst countries and instead what we could be doing better.

The ACT leader says we need to start discussing how we are going to get debt down.

7:15pm- The Greens' James Shaw says it is obvious we are in an unprecedented moment. What we do next is not obvious, he says. The climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis and the crisis of deepening poverty must be looked at.

The long-term challenges deserve focus, Shaw says. We must fund solutions to those as well as the COVID crisis or our future generations will have to pay for both. We need to plan our recovery to create new clean-tech jobs in the low-carbon economy of the future. Everyone should have money to make ends meet, he says.

Tabuteau begins by introducing himself as New Zealand First deputy leader. He is from Rotorua, a tourism rival of Queenstown's. He remind the audience that NZ First promised to put a human face on capitalism and that continues to be the party's promise. 

No new taxes is a commitment of NZ First's as well as a focus on small businesses. He says a good environmental focus is good for business.

Tabuteau says he was surprised by the large welcome ACT got in Queenstown, to which David Seymour said "get used to it".  Tabuteau says Seymour will remain in Opposition, but Seymour says that is in Parliament. New Zealand First is currently polling below the 5 percent threshold.

New Zealand First needs to be back in the heart of Government again, Tabuteau says.

7:10pm - ASB chief executive Vittoria Shortt says its important to support the democratic process. 

O'Brien is now welcoming the candidates to the stage. There's Robertson, Goldsmith, Shaw, Tabuteau and Seymour.

The current Finance Minister and Labour Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson thanks the audience for coming to the debate instead of watching the leaders debate. he says it is an understatement to say 2020 has been unprecedented. We have to accept COVID will be in our lives for some time to come. We will have to keep fighting and our focus must be on our recovery and rebuild.

Robertson says that includes investing people - such as with the wage subsidy and apprenticeship training. The environment must also be a focus, making sure we rebuild sustainably.

National's Goldsmith says Queenstown is an area having real challenges. He mentions that the GDP has been cut by 12.2 percent and we are expecting never-ending deficits. But Goldsmith is confident NZ can get back on track.

He believes National will get the economy back on track quicker than Labour. Goldsmith says National would impose lower taxes by increasing the tax threshold. He wants to see businesses be able to take on new workers. Quality infrastructure will also be a key focus for the party.

7:05pm - Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult is now speaking, also saying how welcome it is that 400 people can now be in one room. Queenstown has really suffered by the drop in tourism and Boult says the district is the worst affected in New Zealand. 

He says $1.9 billion has been ripped out of the economy with international tourism not currently allowed.

Boult says finance is extremely important, especially now during the COVID-19 times. Infrastructure funding, climate action, and economic diversification are some of the topics he is interested in.

He wants to see the district move forward sustainably, responsibly and intelligently. 

The Mayor finishes by wishing all the candidates all the best.

7pm - Newshub's Tova O'Brien has arrived to welcome the audience to the debate. She acknowledges that 400 people are together in one room, allowed under alert level 1. 

"I am utterly, utterly thrilled to be here," she says. 

O'Brien is dealing with some house-keeping. 

6:55pm - We are getting close to the debate. You can now watch the livestream above.

While you're here, have a look at the rest of Newshub's planned election coverage so you can stay up-to-date.

6:10pm - A new TVNZ poll shows both major parties' support has dropped since the network's last poll while ACT has jumped to seven percent.

The TVNZ-Colmar Brunton poll has Labour on 48 percent (down 5), National sitting at 31 percent (down 1), ACT on 7 (up 2), the Greens at 6 percent (up 1), and New Zealand First on 2.

Find more here.

6pm - Newshub Live at 6 is on now. Political reporter Jenna Lynch has the latest on the National Party fiscal hole ahead of the finance debate.

5:50pm -  We will be livestreaming the debate in the video component above when it begins at 7pm. You can also watch it on the Newshub YouTube channel. More details about the debate can be found here.

Newshub is also live-updating the first televised debate of this year's election campaign between Judith Collins and Jacinda Ardern. Find that here.

5:40pm - One of the big topics going into Tuesday's debate is the hole in National's economic plan. On Sunday, it was revealed that the party had used figures from the Budget to forecast how much money it would save by suspending payments to the SuperFund instead of numbers from PREFU.

Treasury revised the size of Super Fund contributions over the next decade from $19.1 billion to $14.8 billion in the PREFU - a difference of $4.3 billion which wasn't accounted for in National's plan.

Then, on Monday, Newshub revealed National made the same error with its capital allowance. That left a hole of $88million.

Now, it's being reported that the party twice counted $3.9 billion left over from the New Zealand Upgrade package. 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.

Goldmsith called the Sunday error "irritating".

"As Grant Robertson helpfully pointed out, we based our fiscal plan on contributions to the Super Fund based on Budget figures, and turned out there was a slight change with the PREFU figures," Goldsmith told reporters on Sunday.

"The result of which is that instead of National's plan [of] getting net debt as a country back to 35 percent of GDP in 2034, we go to 36 percent of GDP."

It won't affect the party's plan to offer tax cuts. The changes to tax thresholds, worth $4.7b, will be paid for by drawing down on the COVID fund.

5:30pm - Newshub's Political Editor Tova O'Brien will be MCing Tuesday's debate. She says the town hall debate being held in Queenstown has sold out with "400 real life people for the first time this campaign". 

5:20pm - It was just last week that the Government opened its books in what is referred to as the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update, or more simply, PREFU.

The update was hotly anticipated as it was the first look under the bonnet of the Crown's finances since the May Budget. 

Way back in March, the Government announced a $12 billion package - which included our first wage subsidy - to respond to the impacts of COVID-19. Two months later at the Budget, an additional $50 billion was announced for the fund, taking the total to $62 billion.

But PREFU shows Government spending was $4 billion less than expected. Only about $44 billion worth of funding decisions have been made, while $14 billion has been left aside in a sort of rainy-day fund. 

National says it would draw down on that COVID-19 fund to enable it to pay for the likes of its tax package, which proposes increasing the tax thresholds. 

PREU revealed that unemployment is expected to hit 7.8 percent near the end of 2021. While that will see 279,000 people on the dole queue, it lower than the 9.8 percent unemployment projected for September back at the Budget.

The update also showed our forecast debt-to-GDP ratio. In May, this was expected to hit 53.6 percent, but PREFU says it will instead reach 55.3 percent by 2023/24. While that's far higher than New Zealand's pre-COVID level, it's far below that of many other nations. 

Also last week, StatsNZ revealed that GDP fell by a record 12.2 percent in the June 2020 quarter, the largest fall since records began. With that being the second consecutive quararter of negative growth, New Zealand was officially in recession.

5pm -  Welcome to Newshub's live updates of The ASB Great Debate. The debate is focussed on the parties' economic plans, especially relevant in the age of COVID-19. It's being held at the Queenstown Memorial Centre and is hosted by Newshub's Political Editor Tova O'Brien.

Here's who is showing up for each of the five parties:

  • Labour: Grant Robertson
  • National: Paul Goldsmith
  • Green Party: James Shaw
  • New Zealand First: Fletcher Tabuteau
  • ACT Party: David Seymour.

The debate will start at 7pm and is expected to run until about 8:30pm. We will have a livestream of the event above when it begins.