The battleground, the fork in the road, the defining moment - no, not David Garrett's resignation, or the ongoing Chris Carter saga.
They are just sideshows. Next week is the real showdown, as October 1 shapes up as a huge date in both Labour and National's political calendars.
It would be overstating it to say that the election could be won or lost depending on what happens next week. But there is no mistaking the dress rehearsal atmosphere as both parties pitch their tents in Mana in preparation for a by-election on the twin issues of tax cuts and GST.
They are shaping up as among the major defining differences between the two parties.
Labour leader Phil Goff is expected to launch his party's campaign in Mana on Monday with a promise to axe GST on fresh fruit and veg.
It seems half-hearted when weighed against Prime Minister John Key's $4 billion in tax cuts. But Mr Goff has already signalled the reinstatement of a 38c tax rate for "the rich" (those earning more than $100,000).
In other words, his mission is to convince the lower-paid that any benefits from the GST rise/tax cut package are destined to flow largely to the rich. If the Mt Albert by-election was just for fun then this one, now that there is something real and meaty to fight over, is the real deal.
Whilst we have some agreement with Watkins' opinion regarding Mana being a test-bed for next year's campaign, we disagree with her conclusions as to the subject-matter of the fight. If the best policies that Phil Goff can come up with are to axe GST on fresh fruit and vege and to tax "the rich", Labour is deeply mired.
Turn your minds back to March this year, when with much fanfare, Labour's Axe the Tax bus tour rolled into a town near you. You, fellow taxpayers, and we paid for that dishonest jaunt around heartland New Zealand. Even before the trip was finished, Jacinda Ardern made the rather frank (for Labour) admission that Labour wasn't REALLY planning to Axe the Tax at all in terms of the then-proposed GST increase; Labour was merely campaigning against it, and Axe the Tax was a snappy rallying-cry! Labour's investment of tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars was based on an untruth.
Since then, Phil Goff has tried to gain traction on a plan to exempt fresh fruit and vege from GST, but we fail to see that as a circuit-breaking issue for Labour. For small business, it's just going to be an extra compliance cost; for the consumer, the cost benefit is going to be negligible. Perhaps it's just a job creation scheme dreamed up by one of Labour's union affiliates whereby the staff of the IRD will have to treble in size to administer the complex GST regulations!
So bring it on Phil; if Labour wants to contest next year's election based on tax policy, we say "go for it". The Helen Clark delivered ONE tax cut in nine years of economic good times. John Key's government will deliver its second personal income tax cut in less than two years since it assumed office. Conversely, Phil Goff is going to roll back the tax cuts for the higher-paid if elected. We'll make sure THAT policy gets Phil all the publicity he doesn't want!