Leaders' debate, TV3, November 21, Key vs Goff: live blog

by Toby Manhire / 21 November, 2011
TV3's leader debate is hosted by John Campbell with help from Duncan Garner and The Worms. Scroll to foot of page for the Debate DeBingo.
This post is devoted to the leaders' debate broadcast on TV3 at 7pm. For the rest of the day's action click here.

7.05pm: John Campbell introduces the leaders, and the worms. The panel they've chosen for the main worm, he assures us comprises "65 uncommitted voters".  A "fair sample", says Campbell. Unlike the other one, which is a bunch of self-selected loonies with smart phones.

Opening statements: Key is confident, hitting home with the economic stability stuff. Already a good bit of Bingo marked off. Goff begins talking to the wrong camera. Darn it. Because you came here for thoughtful analysis, I can tell you that John Key looks like he's got a bit more shoulder paddage than normal.

7.20pm: The underclass. What are you going to do about it? Key says they've done plenty: health, house insulation, and prioritising education. He's not directly challenged on anything he says. Goff runs a fairness line. Tax cuts for the rich is not fair, he says. Access to health and education is not fair, he says.

"So we've gone through a global economic crisis," interjects Key, and he's proud that they've managed to retain the essential public services. "You well know," says Key to Goff, that the tax changes were distributionally neutral. You well know. You well know that we couldn't afford to knock people out of work by hitting employers. "What I know," retorts Goff, is that society has become less fair, that the wealth gap has grown wider. I wish, says Key, I could "magic away the global financial crisis".

Key does his best to bring things back from an abstract debate about fairness to a b outof spreadsheet-slinging. He wants to talk numbers, because he knows he can beat Goff on numbers. Goff talks about generations, about communities suffering, about fairness.

Campbell has some figures, too, some pretty dismal OECD figures. "The only way we will deliver for those children is when we have a strong economy, when we're not saddled with debt," says Key. Goff: Yes we need a strong economy, and it's a shame NZ business leaders don't think you have a plan. Then he talks about investment in early childhood education, John, John, he says. And the worm is crawling up towards the knot in his tie.

Goff is in fact creaming Key on the worm front. He's talking about the local school. You need to go there, John, he says. And Key can hardly says, "Nah, bit busy", so he nods. People are having a real tough time, says the Labour leader. "That's what people on the ground say. You need to get in touch with them." And just as Key starts responding, Campbell takes us to a break.

Goff, replete with anecdotes, is bossing it so far. Credit to Campbell, too, we got a chance to flesh out a subject there, rather than darting off in all directions.

7.35pm: To the minimum wage. It's not enough to live on, says Goff. He pushes Labour's plans for apprenticeships. We can't be the cheapest, says Goff, but we can be the best.

Key says the govenment needs to "go out there and back the half a million business in New Zealand" - especially the small ones, he says. And look at what we did with those Hobbits!

Of course I want them to earn more, says Key, but if it's "just through the stroke of a pen, then I'm in for twenty bucks an hour"; he doesn't to do it arbitrarily because people would lose jobs.

Then ensues the now familiar row about the reports from Treasury and the Department of Labour over the impact of raising the minimum wage. "You and I know, that's not what they said," says Key, pointing up the distinction between the youth minimum wage advice and the general minimum wage.

This Taupo takeaway bar Key keeps coming back to. Anyone know it? Definitely stopping next time we go through. Except there's that bypass now.

Next to Australia, and Goff invokes Aroha who's heading to Oz rather than Taupo. Key has rebuttal to hand. But he has his other hand in his pocket, which is not a great look.

How is New Zealand doing in job creation? Not well, says Goff. Well, given the circumstances, says Key.

"John, John, are you really telling me you haven't read the latest household labour force survey for the September quarter?" implores Goff. And you half expect him to say, in revenge for the "show me the money" stuff, "Can you tell me what the second footnote on page 71 refers to? No? No? You can't handle the truth!

John Key, hand back in pocket, returns to his be-reasonable approach: given the state of the economy they inhereted, given the global economy, given what happened in Christchurch, they've kept the economy on an even keel.

To a break. Asset sales next. There's an ad for the Greens. Hello, Greens! And a Labour one, too. And one for Lazy-Boys.

7.50pm: Back to the debate and to asset sales. So far it's been good stuff. The two leaders are facing one another head on across the studio, and that works. The worm is daft but it's not distracting me much. It likes Goff.

Key makes the case for asset sales. Mums and dads, he says - Bingo! - can invest in them. He draws an analogy with NZ households deleveraging, which is something our family talks about around the dinner table most nights. Mum and dad: he's said that three times now. Goff would just saddle

"John, you don't sell your house to pay back your mortgage," says Goff. He knows full well that this is the bit of the debate he simply must win. He invokes the importance of dams to his family, and does OK here.

So, says John Key, this is a battle of ideas, this election. And they've been up front about this issue for a year - it's almost as if he's conceding the measure isn't popular and is trying to make it appear somehow a brave, tough choice. And another reference to mums and dads, along with the favoured Fairfax/TradeMe example again.

"Yes this election is about choices," says Goff. "If they want to privatise their assets, they'll vote for you."

What chance further assets down the line, Campbell asks. Key says mums and dads a lot. He can't say what he'll do in 2014, but he's been transparent this time around and there won't be anything more for sale in the next term.

Key is being "dishonest", Goff says, by promising he won't sell Kiwibank. Never when I'm prime minister, says Key. I can give you an "absolute promise", says Goff. I can, says Key. I can, says Goff. Or something along those lines.

That worm, it hearts Goff something serious. Socialist worm, they're saying on Twitter. Off to a break.

7.55pm: Some tweets.

Marcus Lush: the home audience should use the worm to rate the ad breaks

genohallorangenohalloran Goff: "I suggest you go look at the facts." Key: "You go look at them!" Time for the naughty step?

DavidSlack: Key in quandary. Can't magic away worm, can't call police.

Consensus on Twitter is also that John Campbell is doing well, giving them space to debate. True, that.

8.00pm: Next those prickly seats. Epsom? It's a rort, says Goff. it's up to the people of Epsom. Key: Up to them. Ohariu? Key: Up to them.

What about NZ First, says Campbell. Goff reiterates that he'll wait and see. "This isn't Comedy Central," says Key, hoping for a laugh: Winston isn't going to provide stability. "You've talked a lot about volatility today," fires Goff back at him. You're volatile, you are. Stable government, says Key. Those of you playing Bingo (see bottom of page) are racing ahead.

Campbell pushes Goff on the Winston factor. If NZ First did get into parliament, he would expect him to "do the reponsible thing", says Goff. He will not rule Winston out. Key launches into his theme. He changes his mind all the time, he loves them baubles. "New Zealanders watching this programme tonight better get ready for a new election" if Winston Peters is around, he says.

The Greens are OK, says Key, but they've made it clear they'll go with Labour. Goff says Key is "donkey deep" in the travails of the Act party. How did Don Brash end up leader, says Goff, gesticulating in the PM's direction. "Nothing to do with me," chortles Key. "I was at the royal wedding." Get that folks - the ROYAL WEDDING!

Is Brash the right man for Act, Campbell asks Key. "Nothing to do with me," says Key - nothing more to do with me "than who leads Labour".

Off to a break.

On Twitter, @caffeine_addict says: "The Greens are winning this debate and they`re not even there"

And a hashtag is born. Ed Muzik tweets: Some ship has run aground off Tauranga  #IWasAtTheRoyalWedding

8.10pm: "I think it's been a true debate," says Campbell introducing the closing statements. "First class. Both men have brought a passionate convinction, lots of information. I think we've learnt stuff - I hope we've learnt stuff - we didn't already know." Fair enough, too, John Campbell, you've handled it well, let it breathe.

The closing statements, digested:

Phil Goff Upfront promise honest hard decisions keep assets party vote Labour keep assets future.

John Key Brighter future tough times stable government turbulent world party vote National bright future.

8.25pm: The panel discussion afterwards is a mix. Theresa Arseneau, Duncan Garner and Paul Henry weigh up the performances. Garner and Arsenau think both leaders hit most of their marks. Henry thinks Key was ace, just ace, ace. Is that your personal bias, though, asks Campbell. No! says Mike Myers Paul Henry - "I can be objective." Henry goes on to say that he thinks Key did well to explain the rationale for asset sales, using arguments he hasn't heard before, like the TradeMe analogy. Now, I appreciate that I've been beingeing on this campaign (for professional reasons), but I've heard that analogy about a million thousand times.

"After the break, my Mike Moore theory," says John Campbell, sending viewers across the country fleeing to Jamie's Family Christmas on Food Television.

Another ad for Labour. Nothing from National - they're probably spending their budget on Food Television.

8.35pm: Danyl tweets: Good debate . . . but I wonder what a clueless vegetable made of all the complex issues and - Hey! It's Paul Henry!

Back with the panel, and they're poring over the worm. It went "digging for fresh mud", says Garner, when Goff talked about Winston Peters. Garner and Henry reckon Banks will sneak through. Arseneau thinks National might get the majority they need. No one thinks Labour will collapse; 30%-odd is the consensus.

And that's the end of that. A good debate. Both camps will probably be satisfied: Goff because there was no banana skin - more than that, he outperformed the PM; and Key because there was no knockout blow. And the teapot tapes, the wild card that at this time a week ago looked like it could throw everything into the air? Not a mention.

And we never got that Mike Moore theory, either.

8.50pm: Rightwing bloggers David Farrar and Whaleoil believe they have detected a conspiratorial "stacking" of the worm panel.

9.20pm: That should do it for this post. For the rest of the day's action, and the verdicts on the debate from Jane Clifton and Diana Wichtel, go here.

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