6 Oct 2020

Ardern vs Collins: The Press Leaders debate 2020

9:10 pm on 6 October 2020

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has defended her government's pandemic record in tonight's Press Leaders Debate.

The debate, hosted by The Press editor Kamala Hayman and Stuff political editor Luke Malpass was held at the James Hay Theatre in Christchurch in front of a lively audience who clapped, cheered and jeered some of the responses.

Ardern and National leader Judith Collins were grilled on fiscal holes, dental plans and district health boards, among other topics. But the first question was about the response to Covid-19.

Malpass asked Ardern what she would do differently about Covid-19 if she had known in January what she knew now.

She said every leader around the world would want to go harder and earlier.

Collins said National was calling for borders to be closed in February but was told they were scaremongering.

"We didn't go fast and hard and early, Samoa went hard and early."

Ardern said that was factually incorrect, in response Collins said: "don't disrespect Samoa" - which triggered some 'boos' from the audience.

Collins took an early swipe at what she said was the mismanagement of border security, but Ardern strongly defended the government's response.

The two leaders also had a spirited exchange over their party's policies on climate change.

The Press/Stuff debate is the birthplace of John Key's "show me the money" demand of a flustered Phil Goff, and has a reputation for audience participation and fiery argumentation.

The stakes are high - National has been steadily chipping away at Labour's sizeable lead in the latest media-funded polls with each debate, but Collins is now facing criticism from within after claims from her own party members of a divisive culture and "policy on the hoof".

Meanwhile, the votes are already rolling in, with several of the party leaders among those taking the opportunity for advance voting at the earliest opportunity.

Look back at our live updates here:

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