28 Sep 2023

Newshub leaders' debate: The new commitments and refusals to rule out

5:51 am on 28 September 2023
Newshub's first Hipkins vs Luxon debate.

Newshub's first Hipkins vs Luxon debate. Photo:

Christopher Luxon and Chris Hipkins both made several new commitments, or at least said they were open to changes on certain issues, in Newshub's leaders debate on Wednesday.

Other positions they ruled out.

Here's a list of all the commitments - or refusals - they made, affecting their party's policy position into the future.

Police numbers: Both committed to having more police than the number of gang members.

Tax revenue: Luxon refused to resign if the foreign tax revenue National predicts doesn't flow through to the economy.

Child poverty: Both committed to meeting New Zealand's target to get 80,000 kids out of poverty by 2028.

"And we've lifted 77,000 kids out of poverty in the past six years," Hipkins said. "One of the ways we've done that is by changing the way benefits are calculated, Christopher wants to reverse that change and force more kids into poverty.

"That's not true and it's not fair," Luxon said, going on to talk about the party's proposed benefits sanctions - but it's the indexation to inflation rather than wage growth that's the problem.

Public sector jobs cuts: Luxon said "I don't know" how many jobs would need to be cut under his tax plan. Hipkins said he believed his own party's savings could be made "without significantly reducing the number of people that are in work".

Nurses' pay: Both said they would make pay equal for nurses working at hospitals and GP clinics.

"And we put $200 million in just this year to achieve that but Christopher again is making a whole lot of promises with no money to pay for that," Hipkins said.

Hipkins also committed to increasing nurses pay "when they next go in to bargaining, yes of course".

Bowel cancer screening: Both were pressed on whether they would lower the bowel cancer screening age to the same as the breast cancer age.

Luxon said it made sense to do it, as they would also like to lower the age for breast cancer screening. He went as far to say he would match the age in Australia which is 50 years old.

"We have a 15 percent higher mortality rate on cancer than the equivalents in Australia do and so we actually have to close that cancer gap big time."

Hipkins also "absolutely" committed to lowering the age for free bowel screening, but was not pushed on a specific age.

Vapes: Luxon committed to trying something like Labour's policy on vaping, and if it doesn't work was open to making them prescription-only.

He said National "support that direction of travel", committing to having a similar policy on vaping - a limit of 600 on the number of stores nationwide,

"It actually makes sense, it's the next best step. So what's wrong with us actually agreeing on something that's a New Zealand issue rather than making it a political party issue."

Hipkins also would not commit to adding more distance on top of the 300m proximity limit for the stores being near schools.

Managed retreat: Both said they would be prepared to tell entire communities they needed to move if that was the best solution.

They also both committed to a bipartisan framework on moving communities in floodzones.

Forestry slash: Luxon committed to serious consequences - including shutting down - forestry companies if they "don't deliver on their plan, their harvesting plan, and actually deal with the impacts of slash.

Hipkins said harvesters should be held accountable but "not harvesting the trees isn't an option because actually the trees get dangerous the longer you leave them".

Cannabis decriminalisation: Hipkins said he would not rule out further changes towards decriminalisation of cannabis in future, but wants to approach it on a bipartisan basis.

It's a departure from his position last week, when he told reporters the party would not do it in the coming Parliamentary term.

Luxon, despite earlier having said he supported treating drugs as a health issue, not a criminal issue, refused to commit to a bipartisan effort on it however, saying "I'm quite happy with the settings that we've got today".

Wealth tax: Hipkins refused to commit to going to the opposition benches if the Greens and Te Pāti Māori demanded a wealth tax, only saying "I don't believe it would ever come to that".

Defence spending: Both committed to spending more money on defence. Hipkins said New Zealand already was spending more, Luxon said he wanted to get to 2 percent of GDP spent on it eventually.

Neither was willing to say New Zealand needed to be ready for conflict.

Hipkins said he would not commit to restoring air combat forces in the military. Luxon waffled an answer, which sounded like it amounted to a "no".

Deadly drones and TikTok: Both very clearly ruled out New Zealand having drones that kill people. However, neither was willing to rule out banning TikTok.

Menopause leave: Both leaders said "yes" when asked if New Zealand should introduce menopause leave for women. However, both clarified afterwards it wasn't a firm commitment.

Hipkins said New Zealand should have it, but he wasn't committing to bringing it in. Luxon said he would be open to looking at it.

AI tax: Neither would commit to progressing a tax to help support people who lost their job because of AI.

Charities tax: Hipkins at first said charities with a business arm, like the Seventh Day Adventist Church, should have to pay tax.

Luxon said they he was "open to looking at that because I think there's some questions there".

Hipkins amended his answer to say "yes, I'm absolutely open to looking at that".

Feral cats: Both said feral cats should be treated as a pest, the same way all the other pests in New Zealand are treated.

They confirmed this would mean putting cats into the "predator-free 2050" strategy.

Vaccine injury compensation: Luxon said "no" when asked if people should get compensation for vaccine injuries.

Hipkins said "nothing additional to what's available - for people who are the victims of meidcal misadventure there is support through ACC for tha tnow.

Tolls for the second Auckland Harbour crossing: Luxon said the second harbour crossing would "most likely need to be" tolled, while Hipkins said he would "keep that option open".

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