Amy Adams has announced she will retire from politics at the 2020 election and as a consequence of that decision she has chosen to stand down from the spokesperson roles she holds in the Party.
Ms Adams has been the MP for Selwyn since 2008 and is currently both the Finance spokesperson and the Shadow Attorney General.
“I have been incredibly privileged to serve as the MP for Selwyn and a member of the National Party Caucus for almost 12 years,” Ms Adams says.
“Making the decision to step away from politics has not been an easy one but it is the right time for me and my family and I’m looking forward to whatever the future holds.
“I have every confidence in the National Party under Simon Bridges leadership and their prospects for the 2020 election. My decision is purely about what is right for me and the life I want to lead going forward.
“I’ve chosen to make this announcement now as given the seniority of the positions I hold in the Caucus I felt that it was important new people have time to establish themselves in those roles as we head towards 2020.
“From now until the election I will continue to work hard as the advocate for the people of Selwyn.”
Today’s GDP figures show the economy is continuing to weaken under the Labour-led Government and is being driven almost entirely by population growth, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“Today’s GDP figures show the economy grew just 2.5 per cent in the past year compared with 4 per cent under National.
“Growth per person was just 0.8 per cent for the year and 0.1 per cent for the quarter. In the past five years under National growth per person averaged 1.6 per cent a year. That means growth per person has halved under this Government.
“These figures confirm New Zealanders are struggling to get ahead and cope with the rising cost of living.
“Despite all of the empty rhetoric from the Government, under its watch the economy has been driven almost entirely by migration and a growing population.
“The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have repeatedly tried to blame the domestic economic slowdown on global factors but the facts just don’t stack up. New Zealand currently has a historically high terms of trade and our exports are rising.
“The domestic economy is sharply weakening because the Government has introduced a raft of bad policies, created significant uncertainty and has no plan to encourage growth.
“A slower economy means less in the back-pockets of Kiwis and less tax revenue for the Government. A weaker economy means the Government has less for health, education and infrastructure, or to provide tax relief for hardworking New Zealanders.
“The reality that this Government needs to realise is that a strong economy is what pays for more wellbeing. A strong economy requires a Government that actually encourages businesses to invest and hire new staff, reduces red tape and rewards those who work hard to get ahead.”
The Finance Minister will host a farewell function for the Secretary of Treasury this evening despite being unable to express confidence in him, National’s Finance spokeswoman Amy Adams says.
“Mr Robertson was unable to express confidence in Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf in Parliament today after the Secretary’s indefensible behaviour during budget week.
“The Secretary publically and repeatedly claimed that Treasury’s website had been hacked, even though he had been told by the GCSB that was not the case, referred the matter to Police without the evidence to do so and sat on the Police’s rejection of the matter for 12 hours before making it public.
“Mr Makhlouf handled this entire situation appallingly. Even though he was already planning to leave the Treasury, it is untenable for him to continue to hold the role. Instead of asking for his resignation, the Finance Minister is putting on drinks and nibbles and wishing him well.
“The Finance Minister also continues to have significant questions to answer in this matter.
“Why did he fail to ask the right question of Mr Makhlouf before himself endorsing the Treasury’s statement and smearing National and why did he failed to correct the record when he quickly found out there had been no hack.
“Gabriel Makhlouf continued to state publically that a hack had taken place even though he knew it hadn’t. Mr Robertson sat on a lie for 36-hours after he found out that the hack never happened. It’s entirely inappropriate that the taxpayer is now paying for a farewell function this evening.”
The Treasury’s economic growth forecasts are significantly more optimistic than other institutions and bring into question whether the Government will be able to run a surplus and meet its own self-imposed debt targets, National’s Finance spokeswoman Amy Adams says.
“Under this Government the economy has slowed from 4 per cent GDP growth to barely 2 per cent because of bad policies, uncertainty and no plan to grow the economy.
“Data compiled by the Parliamentary Library show that the Treasury’s economic forecasts over the next year significantly exceed those by ANZ, Westpac and NZIER. The Treasury’s annual GDP forecasts for the year to March 2020 are 0.7 per cent higher than ANZ and 0.4 per cent higher than NZIER.
“Economic growth is important because it affects how much tax revenue is collected and how much government must spend on demand-driven areas like welfare. Budget 2019 even outlines that if GDP growth is 1 per cent a year lower, then the Government will receive about $865 million less tax revenue.
“If the Treasury’s forecasts do prove too optimistic then the Government will struggle to run a surplus next year without either reducing spending or raising taxes.
“The Government also has very little wriggle room to meet its self-imposed debt target of 20 per cent of GDP by 2022. The Budget showed debt tracking to 19.95 per cent of GDP in 2022. If GDP is slower than the Treasury expect - as now seems likely - then the Government will have no choice but to cut spending, raise taxes on New Zealanders or break its own fiscal responsibility rules.
“A strong economy is the only sustainable way to improve living standards and wellbeing for New Zealanders. Without a strong economy the Government can’t afford to sufficiently fund health, education and infrastructure, or provide tax relief for hardworking New Zealanders.
“The Government seems to be more focused on marketing and PR than putting together a credible plan to grow the economy, support small to medium sized businesses and reward New Zealanders who are working hard to get ahead.”
The release of today’s Terms of Trade data shows more evidence that New Zealand’s economic slowdown is due to domestic factors like Government policy, National’s Finance spokeswoman Amy Adams says.
“The data shows a one per cent increase for the quarter, which means our export prices are increasing relative to the price of imports. The strong terms of trade coupled with exports that are holding up completely contradict the Government’s claims that the slowing New Zealand economy is due to global factors.
“Under this Government, economic growth has fallen from 4 per cent a year to barely 2 per cent. Growth per person has stalled. Job creation under National was 10,000 a month. In the past three months, the number of jobs has declined by 4,000. Forecast surpluses are cumulatively $9 billion lower over the next five years than previously forecast and debt is now tracking $5 billion higher by 2023.
“It is now evident the Government has no plan to grow the economy. Instead it is piling more costs and uncertainty on small to medium sized businesses who are now less willing to invest and grow. Amongst other things the Government has slowed the economy by:
- banning oil and gas exploration;
- restricting much needed foreign investment;
- introducing more union-friendly labour laws;
- increasing labour costs; and
- introducing over 250 working groups in core areas such as tax, education, energy and welfare.
“Despite inheriting endless and growing surpluses, some economists are now predicting this Government will be back in deficit in coming years and may also fail to meet its own self-imposed debt targets. That is not a sign of a prosperous or growing economy.
“A slowing economy means fewer jobs, lower incomes and less revenue for core areas such as health, education and infrastructure. National has a proven track record of managing the books effectively while sustainably increasing funding in core public services.”
Despite claiming to prioritise wellbeing, the Botched Budget offers nothing but more taxes for hardworking New Zealanders struggling with the rising cost of living, National’s Finance spokeswoman Amy Adams says.
“Most New Zealanders who work hard and pay their taxes will rightly see the Botched Budget has nothing in it for them.
“Instead of tax relief for middle New Zealand there are new and increased taxes that will drive up the cost of living. These include:
- $71 million tax on anyone using their mobile phone overseas
- $57 million workplace levy on businesses
- $80 million tourist tax that will deter tourism and hurt Kiwi businesses
- $360 million in petrol taxes
“For National, a real wellbeing Budget would prioritise front line services in Health and Education, Infrastructure and take steps to help address rising cost of living for New Zealanders.
“Yesterday’s Budget has barely enough to keep the lights on for DHBs, crumbs into medicines, more school classrooms but no teachers to fill them, no new roads and no tax relief for hardworking Kiwis.
“More taxes on middle New Zealanders does not increase wellbeing. All it does is increase the cost of living and make it harder for Kiwi families to get ahead.
“This is not a wellbeing Budget, it’s a Botched Budget that does nothing to support the economy and does nothing for middle New Zealand.”
Today’s botched budget reinforces that you can’t trust this Government with the economy, National’s Finance spokeswoman Amy Adams says.
“Today’s budget continues the Government’s song sheet of more taxes, more debt and a slowing economy.
“The so-called Wellbeing Budget has revealed that the core part of the Government’s economic plan is subsidies for KiwiRail and little else. No wonder job growth is going backwards and there are 13,000 more people on a benefit.
“Today’s Budget shows the Government will increase Net Core Crown Debt by another $5 billion by 2023 and the Government has left itself no wriggle room on its fiscal responsibility rules. As the economy continues to slow, the Government is likely to break its self-imposed targets.
“In 2022 there is forecast to be a net debt to GDP of 19.95 per cent, just $180 million within its 20 per cent debt target. If the Treasury’s growth forecasts prove too optimistic - as appears likely - the Government will have no choice but to cut spending, increase taxes or break its promise to New Zealanders.
“A strong economy is the best way to improve the living standards of New Zealanders as it puts more in their back pockets and gives the Government more for core services like Health, Education and Infrastructure.
“Surpluses over the next five years are $9 billion below where they were at HYEFU – just six months ago. That is a clear sign the Government is struggling to manage the books whilst it is overseeing a weakening economy.
“You can’t trust this Government to manage the economy. This botched budget is not transformational. It is spending tomorrow’s money today and will be a disappointment to New Zealanders.”
The Government is placing unreasonable restrictions on the Opposition’s ability to analyse Budget documents on Budget Day, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“Having previously been assured the process would be the same as in years past, National has today been told it will only be allowed eight people at the 1pm Budget Day lock-up where Opposition parties are able to briefly view the documents in a transmission-free room before they are released at 2pm and then debated in Parliament.
“While media and other parties are given three and a half hours to examine the Government’s accounts before they are released, National is only allowed 60 minutes. Because of this we need a wide range of subject matter experts to review their areas.
“Last year we had 16 of our team present and to have this arbitrarily halved this year is unreasonable and petty, particularly when we are told this year’s Budget will look very different to previous years.
“The justification being given is because of seating constraints. However, it is the same room as last year and the Government has the ability to ask for a different room if space is an issue.
“This might seem like a small point, but it takes a large team to properly analyse the hundreds of pages of complex Budget documents in just one hour. No such restrictions were placed on National last year, and we never curtailed Labour’s ability to analyse the Budget in such a way during our previous time in Government.
“If we want a fully-functioning democracy in this country then the Opposition must be afforded a proper opportunity to read the Budget before is debated in the House, so the Government can be properly held to account.
“I’m concerned this Government is changing the rules in a way that appears petty and vindictive. If it was truly committed to be being open and transparent then it wouldn’t be making it so difficult to look over its books.”
This week the Government needs to actually start delivering something in its year of delivery in its so-called ‘Wellbeing Budget’, National’s Finance spokeswoman Amy Adams says.
“This Government has become synonymous with over promising and under delivering and New Zealand will expect to see the Government put its money where its mouth is.
“Elective surgeries will fall by 10,000 this year. The number of adults who aren’t seeing their doctor because of the price has increased by 38,000. Healthcare is the very definition of wellbeing – I’m calling on Health Minister David Clark to halt the decline in these core services to improve the lives of New Zealanders.
“Teachers will take the streets in protest the day before the Budget. This will cause huge disruptions to parents and students. Any day out of the classroom is bad for a child’s development and wellbeing.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins has already told teachers they can expect to be disappointed. But he’s likely to push ahead with prioritizing his unpopular tertiary reforms over resolving teacher’s pay claims.
“This Government has cancelled all planned major roading projects and failed to start any new ones. It’s added on the regional fuel tax so it’s now more difficult and more expensive to get around. Ultimately that will result in higher food prices as costs are passed on.
“Rents are up an average of $50 a week because of poor policy decisions, electricity increases are on the way. Less money in families budgets does little to help wellbeing.
“Police Minister Stuart Nash is going to need at least $216 million to deliver on his promise of more Police. That’s just to deliver on an old promise, without any other initiatives to keep New Zealanders safe. National revealed today that serious crime has increased by 25 per cent since the election. We consider keeping communities safe a core part of wellbeing.
“This Government can’t be trusted with the economy. It’s blown billions of dollars on fees-free tertiary education, Shane Jones’ slush fund and KiwiBuild. It’s wasting so much money it’s had to drop its self-imposed debt target and increase the spending limit by $17 billion so it can fund its bad spending decisions.
“The reality is that under this Government there are fewer jobs, more people on a benefit and needing hardship assistance, huge increases in the numbers of people without housing, more people are missing out on elective surgeries and there is more strike action than we’ve seen in decades.
“National believes wellbeing is having a job, a place to live, being able to pay your bills, world leading health and education, having freedom and choice, being safe and loved and protecting our environment. This is what needs to be delivered on Thursday, not more tax and spend, borrow and hope.”
It’s great to be up here in the Bay of Islands. It never fails to amaze me how beautiful this country is but also how distinctly different the top of the north is from the bottom of the south, where we had my own regional conference two weeks ago.
As always I would like to acknowledge our incredibly hard working President Peter Goodfellow, and members of the Board, your regional chair Andrew Hunt, all of my parliamentary colleagues but most importantly all of you who have joined us for this weekend.
The bottom line is we can’t do what we do as a Party and as MPs without your input and your constant support.
We’re not only the biggest political party in New Zealand, we are the luckiest – to have the members that we have – and we’re going to need you more than ever as we head into 2020.
When I’ve spoken at other regional conferences this year I’ve given a detailed overview of how our economy is tracking and I’ll come back to that in a bit (spoiler alert – it’s getting worse) but I wanted to do something a bit different here because in five days’ time this Government will deliver their second budget. It has already been one of the most intensely spun budgets we’ve seen with the Labour PR machine in overdrive.
This Budget, we’ve been told, will be all about wellbeing, and apparently that means it will be unlike anything New Zealand has ever seen before.
Well I’m not buying it.
Let’s start by looking at what budgets do – fundamentally they are the way in which governments set out the choices they have made on how to best use our taxes to improve the lives of New Zealanders, now and into the future.
As part of doing that budgets also report on how the economy has been performing, and how Treasury thinks it will perform over the next few years, because that tells everyone how much money the Government is going to have available to spend.
Every Government focuses on how it can best improve the lives of New Zealanders and while each Government will have its own views as to how best to do that, slapping a wellbeing sticker on the front of the Budget doesn’t make that any more true for this Government than for any other.
National’s focus is on improving the lives and the futures of everyone lucky enough to live in this incredible place we call home. Labour likes to talk about intergenerational wellbeing.
So let’s have a look at what that actually means.
We’ve already seen what wellbeing means to the Government and they’ve told us how they measure it.
According to their framework you can see how much wellbeing you have by how many friends you make, how many clubs you join, or how well you get along with your neighbours.
Apparently it’s about measuring your sun and moon feelings, and improving your locus of control, and understanding your ability to be yourself.
I have no idea what that means, and outside the Wellington bureaucracy, I’m not sure anyone does.
Wellbeing for this Government seems to be about giving good looking race horses’ tax cuts, while increasing the cost of living on hard working Kiwi families through higher petrol taxes, higher prices and higher rents.
When Grant Robertson was asked to define what Wellbeing meant to this Government he said:
“For me it’s about people being able to live lives of purpose and meaning for them and we as a Government are supporting the capabilities of people and communities to do that and support them to live lives that give them fulfilment.”
I do not know what that means either.
In the midst of these grandiose statements we are seeing New Zealand in real terms going backwards on the metrics that matter:
- there are fewer jobs,
- there are more people on a benefit and needing hardship assistance,
- there are huge increases in the numbers of people without housing,
- more people are missing out on elective surgeries
- and there is more strike action than we’ve seen in decades.
It’s becoming clear that the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality and I think we should expect more from a Government that tells us it is focussed on transformational wellbeing rather than vague, virtue signals.
Today I want to make it absolutely clear what improving wellbeing means for National.
It won’t surprise you that we’re a bit more ambitious and optimistic in our approach to wellbeing.
It’s derived from what we believe every New Zealander expects living in this land of opportunity.
It means actually making a difference for New Zealanders, not just talking about it, and holding ourselves out to be measured on the results.
I think if we were to ask most New Zealanders what the critical aspects of wellbeing were for them you wouldn’t need Stats NZ to come up with a 140 indicators or measure their moon feelings.
I suspect the answer would be something pretty simple like:
- having a job and somewhere to live,
- being able to pay your bills,
- world leading health and education for our families,
- having freedom and choice
- being safe and loved
- and it would mean protecting and preserving our stunning natural environment for the future.
That’s what National believes in.
To do this we have to have an economy where opportunities are abound, new jobs are continually created and incomes are rising.
It means ensuring small businesses around New Zealand feel able to take a chance and create an opportunity for others. It means ensuring that the Government allows you to keep more of what you earn at the same time as keeping your cost of living down.
It means fewer kids with parents on benefits because we know kids have better life chances if their parents are in work and are earning. That means targeted investment into some of the most vulnerable households in New Zealand to change lives one by one if necessary.
Improving lives to me means fewer people needing to go to hospital, and if they do then they get the best treatment available to them, and in the shortest time possible.
It means, frankly, more doctors, nurses and midwives – and not backroom bureaucrats.
And it means increasing access to elective surgeries, faster and broader cancer treatment, more immunisations and raising more healthy kids.
Wellbeing to me means people get access to mental health and mental wellness services in the way it works for them.
We know this is an evolving area of science and research and that every day counts – which is why we invested in 17 cutting edge pilot programmes to help move that along which this Government cancelled in favour of a working group.
Wellbeing to me means kids across New Zealand are taught by motivated teachers who are the best and the brightest.
It’s about ensuring every kid has the toolkit to succeed in this ever changing world – so numeracy and literacy yes, but also digital literacy and financial literacy.
For me, you improve lives by stopping criminals from offending and young people at risk from ever going down that route.
That’s early interventions into high risk New Zealanders and encouraging rehabilitation for offenders who meet the criteria, but also holding to account some of our worst and most serious criminals.
These aren’t just things we talk about, they’re the sort of interventions I was part of in the last Government.
With targeted, evidence driven interventions, we have shown we can reduce crime, improve wages, prevent victims going through trauma, have healthier kids, keep potential offenders out of jail, grow the economy and stop preventable deaths all without taxing New Zealanders more or increasing debt.
This is what wellbeing is to National.
Better Public Services
I also firmly believe that wellbeing shouldn’t just be measured on good intentions and feelings.
We believe in targets. Measures. Results.
You will have heard us talk about our Better Public Services targets which we know were driving real results in areas that actually make New Zealand a better, safer, healthier, more successful country.
Don’t just take my word for it.
The State Services Commissioner, Peter Hughes – the most senior of our public servants – said in 2017:
“Better Public Services targets deals with some pretty important and complex stuff. Issues like ensuring kids are safe and healthy. Getting them into education. Reducing levels of crime. Getting people off benefits and into work. Making it easier for people to access public services they need”
“But the gains are there to see. More kids are getting immunised. Fewer kids are being physically abused. Participation in early childhood is on the increase. About 40,000 fewer working age people are receiving benefits compared with three years ago. That’s a whole bunch of things that change lives.”
And we set ourselves targets in areas like environmental protection, climate change, R&D spending, export markets and so on.
And in the immortal words of Rachel Hunter, it doesn’t happen overnight, but it was working.
Just take the number of people on benefits. Under National it was declining steadily and we saw 70,000 fewer people on benefit when we left office than at the height of the GFC.
There are now 13,000 more people on benefits than when this Government took office. Because they’ve gone soft on sanctions and they’ve made it easier to stay on a benefit and not look for work.
There are now fewer mums being registered with a maternity carer than when we left office.
We saw 10,000 new jobs a month being created, well more than population growth – that has more than halved and now falls well behind population growth.
We don’t know the comparison on a number of the other measures because the Government has stopped reporting on them – whether it be measuring how many kids avoid physical abuse, or kids achieving at a National standard, or even knowing how accessible government services are to New Zealanders.
I want the single mum in Porirua – who is struggling to get ahead under this Government due to increased petrol prices, more taxes and higher rents – to know that we are focussed on providing her child the best start to life.
I want the parents of at risk children to be assured our focus is on preventing and mitigating those risks to ensure they have the best possible chance at life.
I want the victim of a crime to know their Government is doing everything it can to stop people from becoming victims in the first place and holding their offenders to account. That we’re using the data and knowledge we have to target interventions and to stop them offending in the first place.
These are the sorts of things we were actually doing in Government and we were standing up to be measured on it.
Because despite what the Left want to tell us, it’s not about how much money you can spend. It’s about the difference you make.
New way of working
So it’s not true that this is the first budget to focus on how the Government is working to make the lives of New Zealanders better and it’s certainly not true that until now the only measures of success have been economic measures.
The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have also claimed that for the first time they are getting agencies to work across silos on common goals and yet the two pre-budget announcements the Prime Minister quoted in her speech yesterday as examples of this new way of working, surprisingly weren’t the failed KiwiBuild or fees-free flagships of this Government, no she was silent on those, instead the two examples she talked about are both extending funding for programmes National set up.
The first was Housing First. A truly innovative and successful initiative aimed at working with the long term homeless. Funding for that was first put in place by National in the last Government.
This Government has now extended that funding which is about as big an endorsement of the success of what we were doing as they could make.
The second package the Prime Minister wanted to talk up yesterday was on family violence.
You’ve all probably heard me speak many times as Justice Minister about how family violence was my top priority, and in fact the new family violence laws the Government has claimed were actually developed and introduced into Parliament by me.
In the Budget funding recently announced, the core components of that package were just extending funding for the very successful cross agency initiatives designed, developed and rolled out by National.
Again, I welcome the endorsement of our work and yet oddly enough I didn’t hear any mention of that in the Prime Minister’s speech.
I want to finish with a few words on the economy that underpins all of this.
Because while it is almost becoming unfashionable to say so, economic growth is the most important aspect of living standards. Not for its own sake but because of what it provides – jobs, incomes and the revenue to pay for everything a Government might choose to do.
Grant Robertson in his pre-budget speech quoted from Andrew Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England so let me do the same:
He said, “Economic growth has been among the greatest gifts given to us, as individuals and societies.”
“It is now pretty well-established that growth is a vital ingredient, indeed pre-requisite, for meeting many of the broader societal objectives many would view as important to our longer-term health, wealth and happiness.”
National knows that a strong economy is vital to ensuring higher living standards for Kiwi families and that’s why we unapologetically continue to focus on what John Key used to call making the boat go faster.
It’s pretty simple. Kiwis cannot get ahead if the economy isn’t creating new jobs or if the cost of living is rising faster than incomes.
The dividend of a strong economy is better healthcare, better schools, more roads and more police.
Unfortunately, the strong economy the Government inherited has slowly weakened over the last 18 months. When the Government came to office, the economy was growing at about 4 per cent a year. It's now estimated to be at just 2 per cent.
While there are global risks on the horizon, they largely have not happened yet and they certainly cannot explain the dramatic fall in GDP over the last 18 months.
The fact is the Government is slowing New Zealand down because it has no economic plan and so much of what they have done has decimated the confidence of our businesses and hung out a closed for business sign to investors around the world.
That is why business confidence is still at rock bottom, it’s why job growth has actually declined this year, it’s why economic growth has almost halved and it’s why more Kiwis are once more leaving for abroad.
It’s why tax revenues are down $600m from forecast this year alone and it’s part of the reason this Government has now had to admit they can’t live within their own debt targets as they promised at the election.
A strong economy, supported by a Government that encourages businesses to grow and invest, is the key to improving the lives of Kiwi families.
For our part National won’t spend our time and the money you give us on working groups and spin – our focus in the future budgets we deliver will remain, as it always has, on effective measures to improve the lives of New Zealanders now and into the future and real measures to hold ourselves to account.
Note to editors:
This speech was prepared for National Party delegates attending the Northern Regional Conference, Paul Goldsmith spoke on behalf of Amy Adams after her flight was cancelled due to fog.