ACT’s David Seymour ‘standout performer’ at finance debate

Christel Deskins

© RNZ / Dom Thomas Analysis – Riding high on the back of a stellar public poll, ACT leader David Seymour was the standout performer at the finance debate in Queenstown tonight. Based on the One News Colmar Brunton poll ACT would bring nine MPs into Parliament, with 7 percent […]



James Shaw, Paul Goldsmith, Grant Robertson, David Seymour posing for the camera


© RNZ / Dom Thomas


Analysis – Riding high on the back of a stellar public poll, ACT leader David Seymour was the standout performer at the finance debate in Queenstown tonight.

Based on the One News Colmar Brunton poll ACT would bring nine MPs into Parliament, with 7 percent of the vote.

Seymour was clearly pumped when he arrived and, as the MPs made their way to the stage, it was the man from Epsom who got the most rapturous applause.

Queenstown is National country but the party’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith wasn’t winning the crowd over.

Labour’s numbers man, Grant Robertson, took the runner-up mantle – although he also won the award for the most interruptions – barely being able to contain himself every time Seymour had the microphone.



Paul Goldsmith wearing a suit and tie


© RNZ / Dom Thomas


The ASB finance debate was hosted by Newshub political editor Tova O’Brien, who ran it less as a debate and more an all-out brawl at times.

New Zealand First’s Fletcher Tabuteau and the Green Party’s James Shaw were also there, although most of the time it seemed they weren’t.

The crowd of more than 400 – the first public gathering of this size since the bulk of the country returned to alert level 1 – were enthusiastic contributors and the heckling started early.



Paul Goldsmith wearing a suit and tie: National finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith at a pre-election finance debate in Queenstown. 22 September 2020


© Provided by Radio New Zealand
National finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith at a pre-election finance debate in Queenstown. 22 September 2020

National’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith wasn’t winning the crowd over. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

First cab off the rank in the debate was National’s $4 billion hole – an error made by Goldsmith in producing his party’s alternative budget, which was revealed by Robertson on Sunday just an hour before the National Party campaign launch.



a screen shot of Grant Robertson in a suit and tie


© RNZ / Dom Thomas


Seymour, appearing to be somewhat sympathetic to Goldsmith’s maths mishap, weighed in to help his colleague and competition in the Epsom seat.



a large crowd of people in a room


© RNZ / Dom Thomas


That help came in the form of “in defence of my constituent”, which garnered a lot of cheers and laughter.



a screen shot of Grant Robertson in a suit and tie: Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson speaks at a pre-election debate in Queenstown. 22 September 2020


© Provided by Radio New Zealand
Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson speaks at a pre-election debate in Queenstown. 22 September 2020

Labour’s numbers man Grant Robertson took the runner-up mantle. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Robertson, who was stuck between the pair on stage, helpfully offered a new nickname, “brothers of Epsom”.

It wasn’t long before Seymour was back with the one-liners when Shaw finally entered the debate telling Goldsmith “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

Seymour jumped in with “what about crystals?” – an easy dig at Shaw’s support of the controversial Taranaki Green School.



a group of people posing for the camera: The five Finance spokespeople at a pre-election debate in Queenstown. Left to Right: NZ First's Fletcher Tabuteau, Greens' James Shaw, National's Paul Goldsmith, Labour's Grant Robertson and ACT's David Seymour.


© Provided by Radio New Zealand
The five Finance spokespeople at a pre-election debate in Queenstown. Left to Right: NZ First’s Fletcher Tabuteau, Greens’ James Shaw, National’s Paul Goldsmith, Labour’s Grant Robertson and ACT’s David Seymour.

The five finance spokespeople at a pre-election debate in Queenstown. Left to Right: NZ First’s Fletcher Tabuteau, Greens’ James Shaw, National’s Paul Goldsmith, Labour’s Grant Robertson and ACT’s David Seymour. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Starting to get a little too sure of himself, Goldsmith told Seymour not to be so “cocky” after he suggested National had simply been reading ACT’s website for policy ideas.

Seymour responded that it was “hard work coming up with two parties’ policies” but he could “handle it”.

Almost immediately he realised his mistake and cleared up that he wasn’t responsible for Goldsmith’s poorly calculated budget.



a large crowd of people in a room: A crowd of more than 400 attended the pre-election finance debate in Queenstown.


© Provided by Radio New Zealand
A crowd of more than 400 attended the pre-election finance debate in Queenstown.

A crowd of more than 400 attended the pre-election debate. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Even Tabuteau admitted Seymour was entertaining but pointed out he had no chance of being in government.

“He’ll be telling great one-liners but not achieving anything.”

Most eyes were on the leader’s debate between Labour’s Jacinda Ardern and National’s Judith Collins tonight.

While that audience might have got some civilised uninterrupted takes from the leaders, in Queenstown the crowd got a belly full of laughs and an inside look at what Question Time might look like if the Speaker of the House called in sick.

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