Digital Snapshot

by Eva U Wagner

NEW ZEALAND – National Party Ahead in Latest Polls

Digital Snapshot #04/22

11 March 2022

A potpourri of current affairs topics from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific brought to you by KAS Australia and the Pacific. The weekly digital snapshot showcases selected media and think tank articles to provide a panorama view and analysis of the debate in these countries.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect KAS Australia’s position. Rather, they have been selected to present an overview of the various topics and perspectives which have been dominating the public and political debate in Australia and the Pacific region.

According to the latest 1 News Kantar public poll conducted between 5 and 8 March amongst 1000 eligible voters, the National Party has overtaken the governing Labour Party for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic:

National: 39% (49 seats) (up 7% from 22 to 26 January 2022)

Labour: 37% (47 seats) (down 3%)

Green Party: 9% (11 seats) (steady)

ACT Party: 8% (10 seats) (down 3%)

Te Pāti Māori: 2% (steady)

New Zealand First: 2% (steady)

The Opportunities Party (TOP): 1% (down 1%)

New Conservative: 1% (steady)

Don’t know/refused: 10%

Notably, Christopher Luxon has achieved the highest preferred prime minister result for a National Party leader since Sir Bill English. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern remains the preferred prime minister but has dropped to her lowest result of her prime ministership:

Jacinda Ardern 34% (down 1% from 22 to 26 January 2022)

Christopher Luxon 25% (up 8%)

David Seymour 5% (down 1%)

Winston Peters 2% (up 1%)

The NZ Herald concludes that the National Party could form government with the ACT Party, if Te Pāti Māori failed to win an electorate seat and dropped out of Parliament. If they won the electorate seat, they could turn out to be the kingmaker, because neither of the major parties would have enough seats to govern on their own, for that they would need at least 61 seats in parliament.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reportedly appeared unconcerned, saying her focus was on people rather than polls. Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi said he could not work with the ACT Party. National Party leader Christopher Luxon’s take of the polls was that people wanted strong economic leadership, that his party proposed common sense answers and was now seen as a viable government in waiting. Commentators talk about an ‘autumn of discontent’ reflected in the ‘earthquake poll’, referring to the exponential growth of the Omicron variant, week-long protests against vaccine mandates terminated by police force and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking of Russia, it is worth noting that the New Zealand Parliament has unanimously passed a Bill on Russian sanctions. The adoption of an autonomous sanctions regime was required for New Zealand to be able to join the international community in their efforts. The Bill provides for wide-ranging sanctions on Russia, freeze assets, target oligarchs and shut off airspace to Russian aircraft. PM Ardern said that the first round of sanctions, including travel ban extensions and banking restrictions, would be in place within a week. The second round would take longer to activate and involve identifying any more people who should be targeted. The sanctions could be imposed on people, services, companies and assets related to those in Russia who were responsible for or associated with the invasion, or that are of economic or strategic relevance to Russia, including oligarchs.

Other news from New Zealand include the signing of a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom, expected to boost growth by NZD 1 billion, and to benefit exporters who had long faced punishing European Union tariffs and quotas when exporting to the UK. Prime Minister Ardern described the agreement as “gold-standard”, the first one to include a specific article on climate change and provisions towards eliminating environmentally harmful subsidies, such as harmful fossil fuel subsidies, and prohibiting fisheries subsidies which lead to overfishing. She also mentioned that it would include a “ground-breaking” Māori Trade and Economic Co-operation chapter that would create a platform for co-operation on issues important to Māori, including recognition of cultural customs such as the haka. Trade Minister Damien O’Connor expects goods exports to the UK to increase by over 50 per cent through the agreement. The largest export to the UK would be wine at a value of about NZD 500 million, with wine tariffs of about NZD 14 million gone overnight. Honey exporters would no longer face a NZD 16 duty for every NZD 100 worth of honey they send to the UK. Tariffs of 8 to 20 per cent on mussels would be removed in four instalments over four years. Dairy tariffs would be slowly reduced over five years on butter and cheese. Quotas for duty-free access would slowly increase until all tariffs are removed. Tariffs on sheep meat and beef would be liberalised over 15 years, meaning New Zealand farmers would enjoy tariff-free access to the UK for the first time since the UK joined the European Community. In his view, it was therefore a “commercially meaningful and excellent deal”. There are, however, critical voices who say that the Agreement disappointed both politically and economically. In economic terms, we are told that the government’s own modelling projected a mere 0.3% increase on current GDP when the Agreement comes fully into force, which would mean a rate of 0.02% per year over 15 years.

The agreement needs to be ratified by the New Zealand and UK Parliaments before coming into force.