12 Sep 2023

Labour leader Chris Hipkins takes responsibility for party's poor poll result

8:23 am on 12 September 2023
Labour leader Chris Hipkins

Labour leader Chris Hipkins. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins says he takes responsibility for his party's poor result in the latest poll.

The Reid Research Newshub poll puts Labour support at 26.8 percent, its worst result in six years, with National on 40.9.

This poll shows Labour's support plummeting to its lowest level since Andrew Little was leader in 2017.

ACT is on 10.1 percent - down on recent polling, but enough to give a National ACT government 66 seats if the results hold on election day.

The Greens are on 12.3 percent, with New Zealand First close to crossing the 5 percent threshold, at 4.6 percent.

With just over a month until polling day on 14 October, Hipkins said the party would try to turn the numbers around.

"The numbers are not where we need them to be and I accept responsibility for that.

"We've got a turn-around job here to do, over the next five weeks we've got to get out and about, talk to New Zealanders, campaign hard and turn these numbers around - that's exactly what we'll be focused on doing."

Hipkins said he accepted that there was "a mood for change".

Labour would be highlighting to New Zealanders the change that they were offering versus the change that an alternative government would bring, he said.

"When we have those conversations we can win those voters back, we know that because we're doing it every day on the doorsteps, on the phones and out and about on the hustings."

It was not possible to turn the numbers around straight way but they would be working as hard as possible in the next five weeks to turn the numbers around, he said.

Hipkins said when he took over as prime minister he thought a few changes were needed to the government's direction and he took action.

But there was more change to come and the Labour policy set that out in this election, he said.

The campaign was important because most people had not yet heard the policies that parties had announced, he said.

"We'll be working very hard to ensure that people do hear that we're offering free dentistry care, that we're going to take GST off fruit and vegetables, that we're going to extend apprenticeships and keep free prescriptions."

They would also talk about what was at risk with a change of government, he said.

For example, people were concerned about National's housing policy, he said.

"I think people are very concerned when we talk to them about the idea of reopening the New Zealand housing market to foreign home buyers who would push up the price of houses, shut Kiwis out of the housing market - we know that's what happens because it happened last time."

A National ACT government would want to adopt many of the policies which got New Zealand into its current poor economic situation, he said.

For example ACT's policy of deregulating the building industry would recreate the problems that led to the leaky building crisis, he said.

Hipkins said he did not regret ruling out a wealth tax "because fundamentally it's about responsible government, it's about making sure that the government's books are balanced".

"It's about making sure that we've got a growing economy so that we can invest in all of the public services that New Zealanders rely on."

Treasury will open the books for the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update this afternoon, with an expectation it will show higher than expected debt as the economy slows, with tax receipts lower than expected in this year's Budget.

Hipkins said government's books would show that New Zealand was currently facing a very challenging economic situation.

But the update will also show the government's commitment to getting the books back into surplus and to creating the right environment to allow future investment, he said.

"We also want to get to the point where inflation is back down and where the economy is growing again and there will be reason for optimism in the accounts when they are released."

Asked whether he would be Labour leader after the election, Hipkins said he was only focused on getting to the point where the party would win the election.

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