NZ Election 2020: As it happened - Newshub Leaders Debate with Jacinda Ardern vs. Judith Collins

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and National leader Judith Collins have gone head-to-head in the Newshub Leaders Debate hosted by national correspondent Patrick Gower. 

What you need to know:

  • The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll shows Labour on 50.1 percent down 10.8 points while National was on 29.6 percent up 4.5 points. 
  • The same poll showed more than half of New Zealanders - 53.2 percent - prefer Ardern as Prime Minister while 17.7 percent would rather Collins. 
  • The poll also found that most voters - 55.1 percent - trust a Labour-led Government under Ardern versus 34.9 percent who trust a Government under Collins while 10 percent were undecided or didn't know. 
  • Collins claimed victory over Ardern after over her first TV debate last week , who revealed she was trying to avoid political "bloodsport". 
  • Ardern was more fired up in the Newshub Leaders Debate, admitting afterwards that she made a call to speak up more when Collins interrupted her. 
  • Newshub' political editor Tova O'Brien expected Ardern to bring "sass" and "sharpness" after showing up "like a wet bus ticket" to her first debate, and commentators agreed she did this time. 
  • Collins was also praised for her performance. She told media after the debate she enjoyed it, but this time did not declare herself the winner. 
  • Ardern and Collins clashed over child poverty, taxing agriculture, housing and KiwiBuild failures, National's proposed tax cuts and fiscal hole, cannabis legalisation, and the elephant in the room: COVID-19. 

These live updates have finished. 

NZ Election 2020: As it happened - Newshub Leaders Debate with Jacinda Ardern vs. Judith Collins
Photo credit: Newshub

Watch the highlights from the debate:

10:19pm - Former National leader Simon Bridges seems to think Ardern was more energetic during the Newshub Leaders Debate than last week's TVNZ debate.

"Jacinda clearly had more coffee before this debate than the last one," he wrote on Twitter.  

10:15pm - ACT leader David Seymour has welcomed a commitment by both Ardern and Collins during the Newshub Leaders Debate to have an investigation into the way Pharmac funds medicine, after he earlier announced it as a policy.

"Earlier today ACT committed to and independent review of Pharmac's operating model to allow for greater transparency and more timeliness in decision making, this evening both National and Labour backed ACT's call for this to happen," Seymour said after the debate.

"The decisions made by Pharmac can mean life or death. Having access to the right medicines can make the difference in someone's quality of life, whether they experience chronic pain or whether they're able to work. We have to get this right.

"The Pharmac's model and operating framework was set up 27 years ago and there have been no material changes to it since then... A review should be conducted by a skilled, independent committee that includes public and private sector expertise."

10pm - Ardern said the debate felt more like a pub quiz this time hence the heightened energy.

She said voters have got to know her already and the way she leads and what she brings to the table, and perhaps "saw an extended version of that" during the debate.

Ardern said "not every decision will be perfect" when asked why the Government supported the controversial funding of the Green School as a shovel-ready project, which she defended during the debate. 

Ardern said she has a personal preference that there should be more space to speak during the debate, and revealed she "made a call" to speak up more compared to to last week's TVNZ debate. 

She again defended not revealing her stance on the cannabis referendum, saying she wants voters to be able to trust that she will pass whatever they choose.

Ardern said she is open to a Pharmac funding review if that's what Kiwis want, something both she and Collins agreed on. 

She also talked about how both she and Collins are for a four-year Parliament term.

"Let's see if the New Zealand public feel the same way," she said.

Ardern said the first conversation should be if Parliament could determine it rather than putting it to a referendum.

Ardern wouldn't say if she enjoyed cannabis when she tried it "a very long time ago". She revealed for the first time during the debate that she had tried it before. 

Ardern said it's "hard do know" if she won more votes after the debate.

9:56pm - Collins defended mentioning the 2006 death of the Kahui twins during the debate. The twins are often talked about during debates. Collins said she couldn’t understand why there would be criticism about it. 

9:54pm - Collins was booed in the debate when she praised US President Donald Trump, and she said she was simply trying to think of something positive to say, pointing to his intervention in Israel and the United Arab Emirates in forming a peace deal.

Collins would not say if she would like to see Trump re-elected because she shouldn't interfere in another nation's democratic processes. 

9:52pm - Collins was asked why National wouldn't fund dental care for adults when Newshub revealed it would cost $140 million all up. She said she's not averse to it, but National wanted to concentrate on children's dental care, which is laid out in National's health plan.

9:50pm - Collins said it was a "great debate with "loads of energy", and she said she enjoyed it even more than the last one. 

Collins said there were a few things she could agree on with Ardern during the debate, such as implementing an investigation into Pharmac funding and increasing the term of Parliament.

"People realise that three years is a short time," she said, adding that it's expensive to have elections every three years and many of our allies have four year terms.

But Collins said it would need to go to a referendum because it would be a huge constitutional change.

Collins pushed back on criticism of her interruptions during the debate, saying "it's called debating", and said Ardern also interrupted her more this time.

Collins said she hopes she has won over some more voters.

She said during the debate she wants to get back money from companies that took advantage of the wage subsidy. She said she is "disgusted" that some companies took it and then laid-off staff, whereas Ardern said she would not go after them.

Collins said the rules weren't tough enough. 

Collins said generations will be saddled with debt when "other people are laughing about it" which is not fair.

Collins said she still disputes that there is a third fiscal hole in National's financial plan. National's been accused of double-counting transport funding in its plan, but Collins said economists have dispucted it. 

9:38pm - Ardern and Collins are about to speak to the media after their Newshub Leaders Debate face-off. 

9:34pm - Commentator Trish Sherson said Collins is trying to speak to the farmer base and the business base as National leader. 

Sherson said Ardern came to the debate with a "much fresher energy" and has probably realised that "the game has changed" after Collins was widely considered to have won last week's debate.

The Hui host Mihingarangi Forbes said "it's a start" that Ardern is showing interest in making Māori a compulsory language, and thinks it was "a worry" that Collins is only concerned about making two languages compulsory, but not necessarily Māori. 

Sherson said New Zealand is lucky to have a debate of such quality with leaders of such quality.

9:30pm - Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien is speaking with Collins about the debate.

She played her clip about Collins promising to abolish the right to silence in child abuse cases, which was highlighted as Collins' best moment. 

Collins says she felt it was "a much more robust debate tonight" and wouldn't call herself the winner like she did last week.

She said she felt she did very well and could have gone on longer.

Collins said politics should be robust but doesn't have to be bloodsport.

Collins appeared to get teary-eyed talking about her brother-in-law and how he dealt with cancer during the lockdown, describing it as "awful".

Collins called Ardern "naïve" in the debate and O'Brien asked if she worried about coming across as patronising. Collins said she's tired of slogans from Ardern.

Collins said Ardern had "some good lines" during the debate nonetheless. 

9:23pm - Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien is speaking with Ardern about the debate.

She played her a clip of how Ardern pointed out to Collins that dealing with COVID-19 was much trickier than the National leader will acknowledge, which was shown as Ardern's best moment in the debate. 

Ardern said it was about crediting the work every Kiwi put in to stamp out the virus and she said it's a topic that's important to New Zealanders.

She said it's not as simple as creating a Government agency to deal with COVID-19, which Collins' party has suggested.

Ardern would not give herself a rating on her performance.

O'Brien said it was a "very different" Ardern this time than the last debate.

Ardern said she prefers a debate when there is "not so much crossover" in answers and this time she decided to step in a bit more by not letting Collins talk over her.

Ardern said there isn't the workforce to make learning Māori in schools compulsory but said her heart is in it.

9:15pm - Who won the debate? Ardern, Collins and commentators are now giving their verdicts after fiery debate.

The Hui host Mihingarangi Forbes said both leaders were quick - "half and half".

Right-leaning commentator Trish Sherson said both of the leaders "upped the energy" but said it's a forum where Collins is stronger. 

The commentators said Ardern picked up a bit more near the end of the debate, but Collins was thought to be a bit more effective. 

Sherson said the clanger for Collins was around her comments on Trump and how she praised him for his actions on peace in the Middle East. Sherson said those comments by Collins were not necessary.

She said Ardern's response on trading on New Zealand's brand as the solution to the country's growth was weak.

Forbes pointed out how Ihumātao is a tricky topic for Ardern because she never went there and neither she nor Collins have the answer.  

9pm - Ihumātao was the next topic of discussion in the debate. 

"We have to find a solution," Ardern said. "The alternative is a private land owner who can't build and heritage land is occupied."

Collins said Ardern got herself into trouble getting involved in Ihumātao.

"They should get off that land," Collins said of the protesters.

Ardern said Fletchers wouldn't be able to build then.  

8:55pm - Both Ardern and Collins agree parliamentary terms should be four years long and New Zealand's name shouldn't be changed to Aotearoa. 

Both also agreed that child poverty could be eradicated and they both agreed that New Zealand needs to stamp out period poverty by subsidising sanitary products, and Collins agreed that it needs to be available in schools. 

Ardern said she will help schools to have gender-neutral bathrooms, and Collins agreed there should be at least one in schools. 

On Gloriavale, Collins said it "sounds really weird" and agreed there should be an independent inquiry but Ardern said there shouldn't be. 

Ardern said she's sticking to the Smokefree 2025 goal, but Collins suggested that's impossible with cannabis legalised. 

Collins laughed when Gower asked if Labour MP Phil Twyford is a liability. 

"He's my asset and her liability," Collins joked.

Asked if National's Paul Goldsmith is a liability, Ardern said, "Their fiscal plan is the liability," referring to the fact that he admitted to using the wrong figures in National's financial plan which resulted in a $4 billion hole. 

Collins said the Chatham Islands is somewhere she would like to visit, while Ardern said she wants to get to Stewart Island. 

8:50pm - Collins has admitted she thinks NZ First leader Winston Peters is irrelevant but Ardern wouldn't go that far because they have worked together for three years. 

NZ First is on 1.5 percent in Newshub's latest poll. 

"As a Christian I do believe in miracles, but I tell you what he won't be one of them," Collins said. 

Ardern wouldn't say if she would allow a Green co-leader to be Deputy Prime Minister if Labour formed a coalition with the Greens. 

"I would say I do not recommend that for your relationship," she joked. 

Collins said she would consider ACT leader David Seymour as her Deputy Prime Minister, but would not allow him to roll back the first tranche of gun law reforms. 

However, she confirmed the gun register the Government introduced would be gone, which was part of the second tranche of gun law changes. 

Ardern shook her head in disapproval. 

8:45pm - Collins and Ardern both couldn't say they respect US President Donald Trump.

"I think he could've done better," Collins said. 

Ardern said she will work in New Zealand's interests with whoever is the US President.

Collins said she agrees with Ardern that you have to work with who the leader is, but she said Trump has done some good things, such as brokering peace agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Her comments on Trump earned her boos from the crowd. 

Collins and Ardern were then asked to say something nice about each other. 

Collins said of Ardern "means well and is a good communicator". 

Ardern said Collins is "very assertive" in a debate.

Collins has called Ardern a celebrity Prime Minister in the past, and said it's actually a good thing she's known overseas.

Collins said she would "absolutely" like to be on the cover of Vogue like Ardern was, and said any leader who says they wouldn't want to be is a "liar".

Ardern said she has never referred to Collins as "Crusher".

8:40pm - Ardern and Collins have revealed they both eat meat about twice a week, as the topic of the debate turned to climate change.

Ardern agreed that New Zealand needs to show the world that we are serious on climate change.

Ardern said for health reasons there is nothing wrong with cutting back on meat, whereas Collins said if you're going to eat meat, eat Kiwi meat every single time.

Collins said she's not going to tell people how to eat.

"I'm not into communism," she said.

Ardern has called climate change her nuclear moment.

Collins said New Zealand produces 0.1 percent of the world's emissions, but Ardern said if every country had that attitude, nothing would change.

Ardern said she didn't declare climate change an emergency because National voted it down in Parliament, but Collins pointed out that the Government had a majority.

Ardern promised to do it in her next term.

Collins said more coal is being used now because of the Government's oil and gas ban.

Collins said her plan is to support New Zealand farmers by assisting them with having the technology to produce fewer emissions.

Ardern said the value of farmers' products can be lifted on the world stage by implementing more climate change-friendly practices and taxing agriculture emissions.

"The world is changing - unfortunately Ms Collins doesn't want to change with it," Ardern said. "Your ideology is outdated."

Collins shot back accusing Ardern of ageism, which the Labour leader refuted and said that's not what she meant by her statement. 

Collins said the reason National wants to repeal some of the Government's water regulations is because they shouldn't be applied to the whole country and rather region-by-region.

Ardern said she refuses to believe this is a blame game because farmers want swimmable rivers too.

8:33pm - Collins and Ardern have described Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield in one word. 

"Competent," said Collins. 

"Considered," said Ardern. 

They also described the health system in one word. 

"Generally a good system," said Collins. 

"Broken," said Ardern. 

8:30pm - Cancer is the next topic.

Collins highlighted how National is putting $200 million into cancer drugs over four years and Ardern said she's putting the same amount money into it, so it "comes down to trust" for voters. 

Collins said the key is getting people diagnosed early when it comes to cancer. She said the only way to grow the health budget is to grow the economy.

Ardern said politicians can't make the decisions on where Pharmac spends its money.

Gower asked what their message is to people who need life-saving drugs such as Trikafta, which is not subsidised by state drug-buyer Pharmac. Trikafta is owned by US company Vertex and has set its price tag at $469,000 per year.

Both Ardern and Collins have promised an investigation into how Pharamc distributes its funding. 

Ardern said the health system is "clearly showing bias" but Collins said she doesn't think it is.

Collins said there are some racist people in New Zealand but she wouldn't go as far as to call the health system racist.

8:25pm - Ardern and Collins are debating the controversial Green School funding.

Ardern said it was not wrong because the money was given under infrastructure funding and not the usual education funding. Collins laughed at her response. 

8:20pm - Ardern was about te reo Māori learning. 

"First we have to have the teachers," she said. "We've trained 1000 te reo ambassadors... I want every child to learn."

Collins said it's important but New Zealanders should want it. She conceded that she does need to learn a bit more of the language and said she will.

"A big work in progress."

8:18pm - The cannabis referendum is the next topic.

Ardern has revealed she tried cannabis "a long time ago" but Collins said she has never tried it.

Collins said she wants to protect young people by voting no in the referendum.

Ardern said she made a decision not to reveal how she will vote in the referendum because she wants the public to decide and have faith she will implement the outcome.

"I want this not to be about politics," Ardern said.

Collins said Ardern has been clear about where she stands on abortion and euthanasia and is calling on her to reveal her stance on cannabis because there could end up being 400 cannabis shops across the country, which she's concerned about. 

8:15pm - The next topic was gangs - there are about 439 new gang members since Ardern took office.

Collins said she would introduce a "gang squad" to harass gangs and take their assets off them, and the police should be more focused on it.

She also wants firearm prohibition orders, which would allow police to take guns off gang members. 

Ardern said we need to address what makes young people join gangs.

"We have to give our young people hope and optimism, skills and training."

Collins said if that's the case, then why have gang numbers gone up?

Ardern pointed to Australia sending Kiwis connected to crime back to New Zealand which has pushed up gang numbers (501s), and said Collins has "no credibility here on gangs," putting her hand up towards Collins.

Collins touted the matrix meth programme proposed by the National Party, and said authorities need to go after underground drug manufacturers.

Ardern said the answer is addiction services. She said on the East Coast there was not one addiction bed when she came into office and is changing that. 

8:10pm - Ardern and Collins are debating child abuse and calls to abolish the right to silence in child abuse cases.

Collins said National has promised that.

"We've had enough of this as a country," she said. "How many children have to die?"

She said Kiwis have had enough of hearing about kids being abused, but host Patrick Gower pointed out how changing the right to silence would be a big move.

Ardern said Australia tried it and it didn't work. She said someone must be held to account in these cases and keep it in front of the courts.

8pm - Debate moderator Patrick Gower says cannabis is the next debate topic, and Collins joked "that won't be long" - a dig at how Ardern has so far refused to say how she will vote in the upcoming recreational cannabis referendum.

7:55pm - The leaders have debated housing.

Median house prices have gone up by more than $100,000 since Ardern took office but she says she stands by her record.

"Some of the things we tried did not succeed," she said, referring to KiwiBuild, and Collins laughed.

But the audience applauded when host Patrick Gower asked how voters could trust Collins to fix housing when National didn't build as many houses as Labour when it was in Government.

Collins touted her plans to reform the Resource Management Act (RMA). But Ardern said if RMA was the solution, Collins should have done something about it during the time she was in Government.

7:50pm - The cost of COVID-19 is $58.1 billion - the leaders were asked how we will pay it back.

Collins said we need to grow the economy and give confidence back to small businesses, while Ardern said that's happening now with exporters such as wine and agriculture already seeing growth.

Collins touted her tax cut policy as a way to boost the economy, but Ardern called it a "sugar hit" that will add to debt. She said it would make more sense to invest in people by making vocational education free (a policy Labour implemented).

Ardern pointed out how debt was already low before COVID-19.

She touted Labour's proposed higher tax bracket, but Collins said "it means nothing" because it will only bring in $500 million a year. 

Ardern shot back by highlighting National's $4 billion fiscal hole.

Collins said that's the only mistake it made, and Ardern said "that's not true".

Ardern said the hole is worth $8 billion.

"That is not inconsequential," she said.

7:45pm - The next topic is the economy and the wage subsidy. Big companies took millions in subsidies and then laid off workers. The leaders were asked if that was fair.

Ardern said "no" it wasn't fair and reflected on how she expressed concern over The Warehouse laying off companies after taking the subsidy.

Collins said if people don't need the money they shouldn't have taken it and said the rules should have been clearer.

Collins said it was "absolutely outrageous" considering how much money the Government has borrowed. She said it's "simply not fair".

Ardern said she stands by the wage subsidy because the Government got money out quickly to help companies that were suffering through the lockdown restrictions.

Ardern said she would not make those companies that didn't need it pay it back, while Collins said she would look into it.

Collins said clearly they could take the money when they didn't needed and now taxpayers have to pay it back. She said what she didn't support was "lax rules" around it.

7:40pm - Trading on New Zealand's brand is Ardern's big idea to save the economy.

That would help us to bring in investment and continue to support exporters, she said. 

Collins' big idea was to invest in technology and transforming the country into the south Pacific's tech hub.

7:38pm - What will we do if a vaccine never comes?

Ardern said there is "absolutely nothing" to say that there will be no vaccine.

She said there could be a range of vaccines by next year.

She said it is "certainly not" an assumption that there could be a vaccine next year.

Collins said she would "personally be happy" to receive a jab.

Ardern said Kiwis don't need to learn to live with the virus because there is evidence to suggest there will be a vaccine.

Both Ardern and Collins said they would stick to an elimination plan.

7:35pm - When could we expect a Pacific travel bubble?

Collins said Samoa closed its borders a month before New Zealand, and Ardern interjected saying New Zealand was one of the earliest countries in the world to close the border.

"Manners," Collins shot back at Ardern's interjection.

Ardern said if it were that easy to establish a border force to get rid of COVID-19, she would do it (that's a National Party policy). 

She also hit out at Collins' policy of a test before you fly because people will still be able to carry the virus without it being detected.

Ardern wouldn't put a date on a Pacific bubble though.

Collins said she has a "plan to do it" but also wouldn't put a date on it.

7:32pm - The next topic was a Trans-Tasman bubble.

Collins said by this Christmas it should be in place, once again touting the National Party's proposed border protection agency, and her policy of not letting people into New Zealand without a negative COVID-19 test.

She said it would also depend on having no community transmission.

"Certainly no one's talking about Victoria," Collins said, referring to the Australian state where there is a widespread outbreak of COVID-19.

Ardern said there has been "enormous pressure" to open the borders from the Opposition.

She said she will "continue to maintain that standard" going forward. Ardern pointed out how Australia is establishing a 'hot spot' regime where it would open up border-by-border.

She couldn't say if a bubble could be open by Christmas.

7:30pm - The debate started on the topic of COVID-19 and Ardern and Collins were asked how they would deal with another outbreak.

Collins said she would lock down a city if there was an outbreak, but she touted the National Party's proposed border protection agency as providing more stability. But she said if it was Christchurch, she would only lock down the city, not the whole South Island.

Ardern said she would do exactly what she did with the Auckland outbreak. A "short" lockdown, she said. Ardern also stuck by locking down the whole country in alert level 2, even if the outbreak is only in one city, because officials need time to assess the spread.

Collins said she would be "very concerned" to do that because it "locks down the economy" and in the last lockdown the South Island suffered despite there being no COVID-19 there.

Ardern said the advice and evidence is that there could be spread beyond a city that has an outbreak, so the safest option is to put the rest of the country into level 2.

7:30pm - The Taxpayers' Union's debt monster has showed up at the debate.

7:20pm - Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien says Ardern is the one to watch tonight after commentators said she didn't perform as well as Collins in their last TV debate.

"I think Judith Collins probably tonight her tactic will be trying to emulate what she did in the last leaders debate. Jacinda Ardern is the one to watch though, whether she will flex and try and bring a bit more game than perhaps she did in that last one."

7:18pm - Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien says there could be "some mini explosions" tonight as Ardern and Collins go head-to-head in the Newshub Leaders Debate.

"I was down at the West Coast with both Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins last week. The Prime Minister said that if their campaigns clashed there wouldn't be an explosion but perhaps tonight there might be some mini explosions... I think the tension is more palpable as we get close to the election between those two leaders."  

7:15pm - Ardern has posted a selfie before she goes head-to-head with Collins in the Newshub Leaders Debate.

"Just about to head upstairs for the Newshub debate while I leave the team down here to watch on a computer screen!" she captioned the image on Instagram.

7:10pm - Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien told The Project: "This is the moment we have been waiting for this campaign, the clash of the titans in front of a real-life studio audience, the first time we've had a leadership debate. It will be energetic, exciting, intelligent, funny, so buckle in, guys."

The Project host Kanoa Lloyd asked if kindness will be maintained in the debate tonight.

"I think that's one of the really interesting variables of this tonight because this week we've seen the gloves coming off a bit more, we've seen a bit more snipping between the leaders, so that's going to be the thing that I'm watching out for," O'Brien said. 

7pm - The Project has asked students at Waterview Primary School what they would do if they were in a position of power and what the big issues are today. 

"The National Party leader and Jacinda are fighting," one student observed.

"It's going to be hard for people to vote because of COVID-19," another said. 

"I'd make everybody be able to have ice cream," one said.

Asked if pocket money should be taxed, one said, "That's a hard question."

6:50pm - Ardern has so far refused to reveal how she will vote in the upcoming referendum on recreational cannabis and it is possible Collins will use it against her in the debate.

It comes as Newshub revealed smoking a joint looks set to remain a criminal offence with the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll showing a majority of voters will vote 'no' in the referendum.

Watch Newshub political reporter Anna Bracewell-Worrall's report.

6:45pm - Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien, who will be providing commentary after the Newshub Leaders Debate, says moderator Patrick Gower will not let Ardern and Collins off the hook.

"The major issues that matter to New Zealanders - all of them will be canvassed. We want to hear from the leaders, we want to test their ideas, and you know Paddy Gower - he will not be letting them off the hook," O'Brien told Newshub Live at 6pm.

O'Brien said health will be a big focus of the debate tonight.

"It will be a huge focus of the debate as it is a huge focus of the country. We have a cancer crisis in New Zealand, our health system is broken; so we will demand accountability of these two leaders and really push them on their plans."

6:30pm - How to stimulate the economy amid the COVID-19 crisis will likely be a hot topic in tonight's debate and it comes as new ASB Bank analysis shows business confidence is now the highest since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. 

ASB analysts said employment intentions have also improved but "remain relatively weak" and they "continue to expect the labour market will soften" over the coming year.

6:15pm - In just over an hour, the next Prime Minister will take on the loser of the election in the Newshub Leaders Debate, reports Newshub's Jenna Lynch.

"Jacinda Ardern has taken the first dig, reminding Judith Collins that Winston Peters is not the only one who's had a run-in with the Serious Fraud Office. But the National leader responded just as strongly."

Watch Jenna Lynch's report.

6pm - The moderator in the Newshub Leaders Debate is national correspondent Patrick Gower, who has discussed how the show is navigating Auckland's current alert level 2 settings.

"Under the rules we are allowed a live audience and there will be 100 people in a bubble of their own, mainly undecided voters, here at the Q Theatre in the heart of Auckland," Gower told Newshub Live at 6pm.

"The leaders, all the people that are working here and of course myself will be in another bubble separate to the audience. We will debate the issues for one hour and a half.

"The debate is on. It's debate night and it won't even be over after that. Tova O'Brien, our political editor, will have an expert panel and more questions for the leaders."

Newshub's national correspondent Patrick Gower, who will moderate the Newshub Leaders Debate.
Newshub's national correspondent Patrick Gower, who will moderate the Newshub Leaders Debate. Photo credit: Newshub / Jamie Ensor

5:45pm - Collins has posted on social media about her excitement in the lead-up to the Newshub Leaders Debate.

"I am very excited for tonight! Looking forward to a very positive second Leaders' Debate," she captioned an image on Instagram of her in the studio in Auckland.

5:30pm - Ardern has revealed her debate preparation includes drinking a lot of tea. In a social media post, she compared it to studying for an exam.

"I get asked a lot what debate prep looks like. I can tell you it involves a lot of tea, and isn't too far off studying for an exam!" the Labour leader said.

4:35pm - There is tension between Ardern and Collins over comments the Labour leader made on Tuesday regarding Collins' past with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). 

Collins was asked on Newstalk ZB if she thought Ardern might be "upping the sass" in tonight's Newshub Leaders Debate, and Collins said Ardern "better not do that". 

"I've asked her to come back from what she said and to obviously correct the record - because what she said yesterday was absolutely untrue."

Collins was referring to comments Ardern made after National announced it would double the SFO's budget from $12.7 million a year to $25 million, if elected to power. 

Ardern was asked about it during a press conference and took a jab at Collins' resignation in 2014 as the minster responsible for the SFO after an email emerged that appeared to link her to a Whale Oil blog campaign to undermine the former head of the SFO, Adam Feely. 

Ardern said during the press conference: "There's obviously a little history there with the Opposition leader and the SFO - as a previous minister, her engagement with the SFO led to her job loss." 

But Collins was cleared of wrongdoing after former Prime Minister John Key initiated an inquiry, which found that while Collins had provided information about the SFO boss to blogger Cameron Slater, there was "nothing improper" about it. 

Collins responded to Ardern's comments saying: "She's in a position of Prime Minister - that's really bad. So I expect she'll want to distance herself from those comments today."

She added, "I was disgusted with that response from her and clearly she's wrong. I just thought 'goodness sake, where's the kindness gone now?' I thought she wanted a clean campaign and that was pretty dirty."

4:30pm - The National Party and the Labour Party have posted on social media urging their followers to back their respective leaders in the debate tonight. 

3:45pm - Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien, who will be providing commentary after the Newshub leaders' debate, is expecting Ardern to bring "sass" and "sharpness" after showing up "like a wet bus ticket" to her first debate. 

"What I'm looking for is to see how both of the leaders pivot. I think Jacinda Ardern at the last leaders' debate showed up like a wet bus ticket - but that was the strategy," O'Brien told The AM Show. 

She said Ardern was present at the last debate but didn't deliver, which is similar to what other commentators said about the Labour leader. 

"It will be really interesting to see if she turns that around and if she decides to bring that kind of sass and that sharpness that has obliterated some of her opponents in Parliament before," O'Brien said. 

"The strategy of the Labour Party right now is to stay the course, don't spook the horses or rock the boat - just keep going as you are, be the stateswoman that you've been, because that's what will win us the election. 

"That's where the Labour Party's coming from so they may stay the course with that or I think we'll probably see a slightly more amped up Jacinda Ardern."

O'Brien said Collins needs to avoid "overreaching" by keeping her enthusiasm for attacking in check.  

"I think it'll be interesting to see if she comes to the party in the same way and if she can hold back rather than overreaching," O'Brien said. "I think she did in that first leaders' debate - she balanced it just right."

National leader Judith Collins speaking to The AM Show.
National leader Judith Collins speaking to The AM Show. Photo credit: The AM Show

3:30pm - Collins was asked on The AM Show how she plans to approach the Newshub Leaders Debate when she goes up against Ardern for a second time.  

"I'm going to do my job. I'm holding the Government to account. I often look at the big promises made by Ms Ardern three years ago, and look what's happened - KiwiBuild, child poverty, all these things she promised she was going to do," Collins said. 

"Taxes on here, there and everywhere. She just didn't do what she said she was going to do. There's no policy, no plan, no nothing - nothing put out there, just making digs."

Labour has been digging at National after finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith admitted to miscalculating how much it would save from stopping NZ Super Fund contributions in its fiscal plan, resulting in a $4 billion fiscal hole.

Newshub revealed National made the same mistake with its capital allowance, resulting in another $88 million shortfall. National is also accused of double-counting $4 billion worth of funding in transport which Goldsmith has rejected. 

Goldsmith has also admitted he did not account for the loss of tax paid by the NZ Super Fund, but despite that being worth near-on $2 billion, he has insisted that it didn't count as another hole in his budget.   

Collins was asked on The AM Show if National's team is experienced enough, and she pointed out that Ardern had never been a minister before becoming Prime Minister. 

"I think when you look at it she didn't have any experience either. She'd never been a minister, nor had [Finance Minister] Grant Robertson, nor had [Corrections Minister] Kelvin Davis. Almost none of hers have been ministers so I don't think that's the issue."

Collins said her team has business experience. 

"The point is, if you're talking about business and the economy, actually some of us have been in business and we're pretty successful in it, so we do know how to make things work."

Collins said National's internal polling is looking promising but she refused to reveal the results. 

"It's going well actually. It's obviously higher than what we've seen in the public polling. It's a good number and it's going up. I'm not going to tell you. It's important to keep momentum and the only poll that matters is on Election Day."