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Willis struggled in finance debate, but it didn’t matter

by Paul Morgan

Analysis: The Fiery Finance Leaders’ Debate in Queenstown

The finance leaders’ debate held in Queenstown was marked by intense exchanges and a heavily biased crowd. Grant Robertson, Nicola Willis, David Seymour, and James Shaw took the stage to fight for the position of the next finance minister. While each participant had their moments, it was clear from the beginning that the audience leaned towards the National and ACT parties. This article provides an analysis of the key moments and standout performances during the debate.

Challenges Faced by Nicola Willis:

The crowd’s support for National became evident when the mere mention of the Green Party’s wealth tax generated the loudest boos of the night. Grant Robertson, representing the Labour Party, pounced on this sentiment, using it to his advantage. He challenged Nicola Willis, asking her to “show us the costings” in reference to alleged holes in National’s tax plans. Willis struggled to defend her party’s policies, admitting that she did not know the impact of certain housing market measures proposed by the party. This admission created a noticeable shift in the atmosphere, as some in the predominantly National-supportive room seemed baffled.

David Seymour’s Controversial Remarks:

David Seymour, the leader of the ACT Party, generated both applause and dissent from the audience. He garnered support when he promised to reduce the number of “faceless bureaucrats” or public servants by 15,000, appealing to those in favor of smaller government. However, Seymour’s quip regarding the Ministry of Pacific Peoples’ budget, suggesting an increase in security expenditure, was deemed distasteful by some attendees.

James Shaw’s Earnest Approach:

James Shaw, representing the Green Party, adopted a more earnest and measured approach throughout the debate. While not the crowd favorite, his commitment to addressing policy issues and his thoughtful responses resonated with certain audience members. His emphasis on raising revenue through overseas buyers challenged Willis’ claim that they would only make up a “tiny fraction” of the market.

Grant Robertson’s Standout Presence:

Grant Robertson, as the incumbent finance minister, was well-prepared with his one-liners, delivering a memorable response to Willis. He repeatedly emphasized the alleged gaps in National’s tax plans, urging them to provide costings. Robertson’s experience shone through during the debate, and he managed to consolidate support from the crowd.

In this finance leaders’ debate, the audience’s bias toward National and ACT was evident, creating a challenging environment for the other two participants. Willis struggled to respond convincingly to questions about her party’s housing market policies, while Shaw maintained a measured and thoughtful approach. Seymour generated applause for his promises of government downsizing, but also drew criticism for his controversial remark. Robertson, as the incumbent finance minister, capitalized on the crowd’s disposition and emerged as a strong and prepared contender. Ultimately, the debate highlighted the contrasting strategies, strengths, and challenges faced by each candidate as they vied for the position of the next finance minister.

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