Sporting metaphors have been thoroughly overworked this campaign, but forgive just one more: the Greens find themselves as the in-form player of a tennis doubles partnership, with their playing mate, Labour, sadly out of form.
As strongly as the Greens perform, their combo stands on the brink of set point, and near match point against a pairing of Act and National, with New Zealand First threatening to steal the ball.
How, mid-match, do you gee-up your partner, straighten up their returns and somehow put the other side on the back foot?
As things move into the final stages, the Green co-leaders have decided they need to play their shots and win the audience’s support irrespective.
(Enough tennis – Ed.)
So on the eve of the start of advanced voting, the Greens (on 12 percent in the 1 News-Verian poll and 14 percent in the Newshub-Reid Research poll) stand at their highest average rating in their party’s history. They achieved 7.8 percent last election with 10 MPs and co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson into the ministry.
On Sunday, the co-leaders marked this crucial moment in the campaign by releasing two documents: a vision paper outlining the party’s major policy pledges and an economist’s review of the Greens’ tax and spending package.
In essence, the Infometrics assessment of the Greens numbers says if they tax as much as they plan to do through a new wealth tax, higher top income tax, tax benefits for lower earners and higher ACC levies, then their spending plans, for example on dental care, an income and benefit guarantee, and ACC, are achievable.
Crucially, Infometrics does not analyse what it calls second-order effects – what else might happen as a result of the new taxes and charges, such as flight of capital overseas.
On Sunday, Shaw said the Greens had been conservative about some of these issues – allowing for avoidance for the wealth tax to be at 25 percent rather than the 15 percent estimated by the Treasury for the Labour Government last summer.
“Even with the very conservative assumption around avoidance, we can raise what we need to fund the income tax cuts, the income guarantee, free dental, the home building programme and, actually, still have a $5 billion buffer as well.”
That last number is the surplus of government revenue over income after four years of the Greens’ economic programme and confirmed by Infometrics.
Marama Davidson said the second document issued yesterday, a vision statement entitled The Future is up to Us, was timed now to remind voters over the final fortnight that the Greens had an alternative policy formula.
“An election campaign should be about hope for the future,” she said. “It is a chance for people to embrace their power to change the status quo. But all we have heard so far from political leaders are different versions of the same thing.
“For the next two weeks, let’s shift our attention away from the bleak posturing we’ve seen so far, and talk about the Aotearoa we can become – if we just had a government with the political guts to make it happen.
“The Future is Up to Us is the Green Party’s plan to transform Aotearoa to work for everyone, not just the wealthy few. The independent fiscal review we’re also releasing today shows very clearly that everything adds up, it’s all just a matter of choice.”
Asked why the left-bloc’s combined polling is not higher, this close to an election, Shaw said the Green Party had to focus on its campaign. “It’s up to others to focus on their campaign.
“We do pay attention to the polls, right. We’re not the kind of politicians who will come out against polls that are inconvenient to us.
“Having said that, at at least the last two elections the end result was different from what we thought was going to happen.
“What we’ve been saying is just let voters go to the polls. We will campaign to win and we’ll see what the rest of the country has to say on election day.”
Shaw said his party was worried there could be a National-Act-New Zealand First government “which in our view would take us back years when it comes to ending inequality, when it comes to ensuring that everybody’s got access to warm, dry homes, when it comes down to slowing down the rate of extinctions in this country and on climate change.
“That would be a disaster.”
Why then the polling showing the centre-right parties comfortably higher than the left?
Davidson said the reason the party had issued its vision now, with voting opening from Monday, was there was a clear choice. “Our solutions have been landing really well with the community.
“Yes, we want to be in a preferred government with the Labour Party but with far more Green influence so we can get these solutions over the line.”
Shaw said the National plan for its first 100 days in office, announced by its leader Christopher Luxon on Sunday, was particularly bleak.
“It means a lot of New Zealanders who are already struggling will be a lot worse off as a result of what they are planning to do.”
With Labour behind in the polls and now its leader, Chris Hipkins, ill with Covid-19, Shaw couldn’t comment on Hipkins’ claim Labour had seen an uptick in support and “real momentum” over the past week. The Greens don’t get Labour’s internal polling and its own polling was less frequent because of resources.
“Ultimately, we detect momentum for our campaign, but that has been clear for some weeks and months now. The Greens are currently on average polling better than we ever have before.”
Davidson believed there could be a significant turn in the polls for the left. “Yes, because the Greens are offering a clear choice and that’s what we are focused on. We know that people share the vision that we have for our country.
“Again, the polls are the polls but there is only one election night.”
Shaw held out hope that the more voters saw a potential government of National, Act and New Zealand First, the more they would realise they would not be better off three years from now “and that could be turning things around”.
Davidson said the Green Party had shown over two terms it could work well with Labour and had always worked constructively with Te Pāti Māori. “So there’s a clear choice there for a stable, progressive government of parties that are fully independent but can also get on and get work done.”
As they spoke in the Greens’ Karangahape Rd offices, the co-leaders expressed confidence in MP Chlöe Swarbrick holding Auckland Central. “She’s certainly not taking anything for granted, but we think she can win here,” Shaw said. “We think Tamatha Paul can win Wellington Central and we think we can pick up another couple around the country as well.”
Davidson said people needed to know that voters had the power. “Chlöe says ‘Be the polls, don’t just watch the polls, but be the polls’, meaning that if everyone was to get out, no one can diminish the power of anybody’s vote.”