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More political leaders express support for four-year terms in 'powerbrokers' debate

More of New Zealand's political leaders threw their support behind a four-year parliamentary term during the latest election campaign debate held last night.

Marama Davidson, David Seymour, John Tamihere and Winston Peters at Newshub Nation's powerbrokers debate. Source: rnz.co.nz

By Leith Huffadine for rnz.co.nz

To be included in Newshub Nation's "powerbrokers" debate, held in Auckland, political parties had to have won at least one list or electorate seat in the past two electoral terms.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson, ACT leader David Seymour, Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters took part.

Advance New Zealand co-leaders Jami-Lee Ross and Billy Te Kahika went to court in a bid to be involved - but it was rejected.

As with other recent debates, the quickfire questions were the most illuminating - they got some insightful colour about the candidates and revealed some solid political positions.

First round asked leaders which politician from another party they would like to join theirs?

Davidson's was Nanaia Mahuta, Seymour said he was focused on getting more ACT candidates into Parliament first, Tamihere said no-one, and Peters said David Parker.

Next up the candidates were asked if they would support a four-year term in Parliament.

It was a yes from Peters, a no from Tamihere, a yes from Seymour and Davidson was okay with it - but it would have to be put to the public.

The question was the same that was put to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and National leader Judith Collins in their leaders' debate on Wednesday night - both were in support of a four-year term.

They were then asked what their worst mistake in the last term of Parliament was (or in Tamihere's case, recently)?

Peter said he couldn't say due to Cabinet rules - which got a few laughs from the crowd.

Tamihere said his was forgetting his wedding anniversary last week - more laughs from the crowd.

Seymour made a reference to his Dancing with the Stars performance, saying his worst moment was doing the paso doble - cue more laughter.

Davidson followed up quickly, saying hers was watching the paso doble - even more laughter.

But the debate covered the serious stuff, too.

First up was a question about polling and performance.

Davidson got challenged on coalition bottom lines - and said the Greens only had "top priorities". Those were things like climate change, ending poverty and caring for the environment.

Peters said NZ First had co-operated with Labour during the last term, but now it was every party for itself.

As for the polls, NZ First had always been underdogs, Peters said.

Seymour was asked if there was any way he would work with Labour.

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It would be "difficult", he said. That answer was more of a no. He also said he wasn't interested in the deputy prime minister job - policy was more important.

Tamihere said his party was working to build a lasting Māori political movement.

"There's two elections going on," he said. The mainstream one, and the ones for Māori seats.

The conversation moved on to the Serious Fraud Office investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation.

This one meant Peters got a fair bit of the attention on him, but things moved on when Tamihere chimed in about donations.

He took a shot at Peters but said things had to be fair.

Davidson then asked the other candidates to support the Greens' push to reform political donations.

Seymour chipped in, saying his party did things by the law and that his party and the Greens were the only ones in Parliament not being investigated by the SFO.

Covid-19 was the next big issue and Davidson was asked why the Greens have been a bit quiet on the issue.

That was because the party supported Labour's approach that the best response was a health response.

She did say a vaccine might not be a solve-all, and that other measures should be prepared in case it didn't pan out.

Peters said the "cohesion and co-operation" of the country dealing with the virus was important, but he still thought the military should have been involved in the response from the get-go.

Most of the Covid-19 response and recovery talk involved the candidates going over their party policies - nothing new.

But Tamihere sparked up a bit of banter with Seymour after saying the ACT leader thought "greed was good".

Eventually, Tamihere said he wanted the country's moral compass recalibrated to help the poor.

Peters took an opening for a classic Winston line and asked the host "will you tell these two guys it's not the American election?".

On Oranga Tamariki, Davidson called for more money and resources to be put into kaupapa Māori approaches before Tamihere got stuck in, saying Māori could care for their own people. It was one of multiple times during the debate where you could see his passion for Māori causes.

Peters interjected, prompting Tamihere to call him the "biggest handbrake on Māori that there is".

Next up was climate change.

Seymour said he was taking it seriously, despite his plans to scrap the Zero Carbon Act. That put too much power in the climate change minister, giving them the ability to control whether an industry lived or died, he said.

He wants New Zealand's carbon price tied to that of our trading partners.

Peters ignored a question about why he "hates electric vehicles", while Davidson said her party had made the most progress in climate policy in the past three decades.

The last questions were centred around the housing crisis - both supply and social housing - before finishing up on the matter of Ihumātao.

Finally, the candidates were asked to wrap up.

Davidson called for support for climate action, ending poverty, environmental protection and looking after children.

Seymour said his party has stood against others where needed and supported when necessary - a party vote for ACT would see more of that - reasoned opposition.

Tamihere said the Māori Party would seek justice and fairness to help Māori break out of the "bottom end" society in the country where they were mana whenua.

Peters said his party was needed for common sense and experience.

"Buy some insurance, party vote NZ First."