Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins debate climate policy, cannabis and renaming NZ

New Zealand elections

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a climate change emergency would be declared if re-elected on 17 October, while opposition leader Judith Collins has promised tax cuts and faster economic growth during this week’s one-and-half-hour debate. With less than three weeks until the New Zealand elections, Ardern, for now, is safely in the winning role.

The Labour leader and current prime minister met the National Party leader in Auckland this week in a debate, moderated by Patrick Gower, during which the leaders “clashed and argued, but also laughed and complimented each other”.

Ardern’s promises included action on climate policy, eradication of child poverty and a move towards subsidising sanitary products for girls and women.

While Collins pledges that if family members of abused children refused to participate in police inquiries, they would face jail. Collins also guarantees to get rid of the gun register and ensure every school in the country has a gender-neutral toilet, reports The Guardian.

On the subject of managing COVID-19, Collins said she would make it easier for people to travel to New Zealand and would try to establish a trans-Tasman ‘travel bubble’ with Australia by Christmas.

Ardern didn’t dispute the travel bubble and instead said it was a difficult job to do safely. However, both leaders committed to continuing with the country’s COVID-19 elimination strategy.

In terms of the 30% growth in gang membership over the last three years, Collins said she would create a specialised “gang squad”, while Ardern noted the root causes of youth displacement and alienation needed to be healed first.

Ardern, who is currently leading in the polls ahead of the vote, also admitted she had smoked cannabis “a long time ago” but did not disclose how she would vote in the coming cannabis referendum. Collins said she would vote against legalising cannabis and had never used the drug.

Labour and National leaders agreed it was not the right time for New Zealand to change its name to the Māori Aotearoa but said they would like to learn more of the language themselves, and for it to be taught widely in schools.

Earlier this week, the National Party was polling at 33 points, well below Labour, which was at 47.

New Zealand will head to the polls on 17 October.

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