Grant Robertson defends attack ad aimed at Christopher Luxon, skirts around questions over Labour's previous campaigning

The Deputy Prime Minister is defending running an attack ad criticising National leader Christopher Luxon over his cost of living comments.  

The ad, which was released among a flurry of others by the Labour Party, accused Luxon of using the cost of living crisis as a political tool.

It features a smiling picture of Luxon with the words, "The cost of living crisis - that's how we'll win this election" plastered on it. Luxon said the quote during a recent National Party Central North Island conference in Hamilton. 

But it didn't go down well with Robertson who authorised the advert. 

Speaking with AM's Melissa Chan-Green on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said the cost of living crisis "is not about politics". 

"The cost of living crisis is about households in New Zealand who are struggling to make ends meet because we've got this massive global inflation spike," Robertson told Chan-Green. 

"Christopher Luxon just seems to see it as some sort of political game and I think it's worth highlighting that to New Zealanders and also highlighting at the same time that our response has been to step up, cut the price of public transport in half, cut the price of petrol, give people $350 cost of living payment. This is a serious issue and it seems to us Mr Luxon simply saw it as politics."

When asked twice whether Robertson himself had ever used social issues as a political tool, he avoided the question, instead calling Luxon's quote an "insult to New Zealanders". 

"Mr Luxon has to stand up for those comments and we would have had to stand up for any comments we made at the time." 

When asked a third time whether the Labour party had ever used a social issue for political gain, Robertson skirted around the question. 

"I'm in politics because I want people's lives to improve," he responded. "Every single day I get up and come into this building and I go out into the community and try to do that. Of course close to election time we have to put ourselves out there and see if the public will support us. "But right now we have a cost of living crisis for a lot of New Zealanders. We've stepped up to the plate to help them deal with that and we saw Mr Luxon play politics.

"Mr Luxon has to explain himself as to why he sees the cost of living crisis as connected to him winning the next election."

During the 2017 election campaign, Labour took numerous jabs at the then National Party over the housing crisis. 

Luxon has repeatedly criticised the Government over the cost of living crisis in the past few months. In response to increasing political pressure Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who initially refused to label increasing costs as a crisis, introduced a slew of measures to help Kiwis. 

The Government also revealed a one-off payment of $350 for Kiwis earning under $70,000 in this year's Budget. 

Meanwhile, Luxon has blamed the Government's spending for increasing inflation and is proposing tax cuts to mitigate high costs. 

If elected, National would raise the income tax brackets by just over 11.5 percent to match the increase in the cost of living over the last four years. The party would also scrap the new top tax bracket for Kiwis earning over $180,000 that Labour introduced. 

Speaking with Chan-Green earlier in the show, former National leader Sir John Key said the attack ads show the Government is worried. 

"Chris is really right - the cost of living is the biggest issue that Kiwis face and the Government has completely failed on that front. 

"It's a sign of worry. If you spend time talking about your opposite number you're worried about them right. 

"And… if anyone can theoretically control these issues it's the Government and one of the reasons that cost of living is under so much pressure is the Government has borrowed the better part of $100 billion and you've now got the Reserve Bank Governor firing up interest rates. The biggest single item that most New Zealanders face is their rent or their mortgage and that's going through the roof because the Reserve Bank Governor has no option but to try and counter the spending of the Government."

Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr told AM last week it was too simplistic to blame the Government's spending for high inflation. 

"I think that's far too simplistic and in fact wrong in a sense," Orr said when asked whether his job was made harder by the spending. 

"Government fiscal policies are both about long term infrastructure and all of the challenges, it is about making sure the current level of services can be supplied. 

"There's so much complexity around the Government balance sheet. But without a doubt they are a big part of spending in the New Zealand economy, the recent Budget spending is up somewhat but when you look ahead, the actual impost from the Government's fiscal policy starts to wane over the next two years. There is a higher starting point and upward pressure on demand but then waning through time, so that is happening but it's a very small part of the total picture."

Orr said global inflation and supply constraints played a much bigger role in inflation than the Government's recent spending. 

The attack ad came after a recent poll showed National once again ahead of Labour. The latest 1 News / Kantar Public poll had National's support at 39 percent, while Labour is down two points on 35 percent.

It comes after a Newshub Reid Research poll earlier in the month showed Labour suffered a dramatic drop in support while National streaked ahead. 

In the poll, Labour's vote plummeted 6.1 points, down to 38.2 percent - its first tumble into the 30s since Ardern became Prime Minister in 2017. 

Meanwhile National had shot past Labour, cracking the 40 percent mark at 40.5 percent.