Developing the indicators for the Living Standards Framework that will underpin future policies is a serious and important task but the Government’s wonky instructions to Stats NZ risks the process descending into farce, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“Officials at a Stats NZ technical workshop today spent an hour having participants singing, hand-clapping and playing ‘Check Your Privilege bingo’.
“Yet at the same time, New Zealand continues to wait for the 2018 Census results after a shambolic process that resulted in significant data gaps and we’re yet to see anything on the last two years of child poverty statistics.
“According to the Government agency’s bingo card, it seems if you are a ‘native English speaker, Cis, white, thin, have no speech impediment, heterosexual, able-bodied, standard accent, have no criminal record, human, tall, mentally healthy, support a mainstream political party, adult, born in your country of residence, wealthy, employed or just not a red-head’, then you are privileged.
“This narrow view of life from the agency tasked with delivering the indicators that are meant to set an objective and impartial framework to assess Government policy is troubling and reflects poorly on the directives of Government Ministers.
“Combined with a very limited public consultation process, and news that the current year’s data isn’t able to be used because of methodology issues, it risks undermining the credibility of the indicators which underpin the Treasury’s newly announced Living Standards Framework.
“It’s another example of the Government misdirecting the public sector on vital tasks and shows the reality of the Government’s social engineering ambitions.
“National will remain steadfastly focused on what matters to New Zealanders – growing incomes, lowering the cost of living and keeping families safe.”
Sir Michael Cullen has let Kiwis know what the Government has been too shy to reveal – the Tax Working Group was set up to design a capital gains tax which is only going to impose more costs on hard working New Zealanders and drive up rents, National’s Finance spokeswoman Amy Adams says.
“Sir Michael Cullen has clearly worked hard to convince a majority of group members to support the proposed new tax. A minority, he says, continue to oppose such a tax. It’s now clear that this was the real purpose behind the group all along.
“The Government already takes about $50,000 a year in tax from the average New Zealand household and has worked quickly to increase that burden with more taxes on everything from fuel to residential property.
“A Capital Gains Tax will see New Zealanders pay more tax on their small businesses, baches and investments and are known to be very difficult and expensive to apply.
“Sir Michael’s revelation that the CGT has the green light from his group and is ready to be reported back to the Government in February is welcome for its honesty but not for the impact it will have on the complexity of the tax system and New Zealanders living costs such as rent.
“The Government has already signalled its appetite for the new tax, one of many poorly conceived policies that are driving up rents including extending the bright-line test, ring fencing of losses, more burdensome regulations and the ban on foreign investment.
“National believes extra taxes that hit New Zealanders in the back pocket are wrong. If the Government cut down on its wasteful and poorly target expenditure we wouldn’t need any more tax. National are committed to repealing any capital gains tax brought in by this Government.”
A capital gains tax would lead to further rent increases and hurt those who can least afford it, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“The Government insists it set up the Tax Working Group ‘to deliver fairness’ to the tax system but the TWG admits that a capital gains tax would see rents increase further.
“Other economists agree. Andrew Coleman from Otago University has modelled the effect of a capital gains tax and found it would likely lead to higher rents.
“That’s the last thing New Zealand families need when rents are already at record highs and the cost of living is rising. Many New Zealanders already have to stretch each dollar further and make hard decisions on how to pay for essential household items like groceries.
“One of this Government’s primary shortcomings is an inability to properly consider the consequences of ideologically driven policies.
“It has also refused to take any responsibility for rising rents. But a raft of poorly conceived policies are behind the recent spike in rents, including extending the bright-line test, ring-fencing of losses, more burdensome regulations and the ban on foreign investment.
“All of these policies discourage private rentals and inevitably drive up rents. Rents have already increased by $30 a week in the past twelve months. That’s a rapid increase on the $12 a week average increase over the previous nine years.
“A capital gains tax will further compound these rent increases, something the Tax Working Group even acknowledges. There is growing opposition to a capital gains tax from sectors as diverse as the financial markets and farmers.
“National believes the New Zealand economy is in relatively good shape thanks to nine years of stable, sensible policies. We don’t want to see that unwound by a Government that isn’t property assessing the impact of its plans on hardworking New Zealanders.”
A capital gains tax on everything from baches and KiwiSaver funds to direct investments in stocks and bonds will not only punish New Zealanders who have worked hard but could also drive our firms across the Tasman, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“National opposes any further cash grabs from this Government via new taxes but the warning about the risks a CGT poses to New Zealand businesses and capital markets comes from market participants and the stock market itself.
“Hopefully the Tax Working Group will heed the concerns of the stock market operator NZX and the Securities Industry Association that New Zealand businesses need access to strong capital markets to grow.
“If not, they’ll move somewhere more favourable like Australia, taking jobs and investment with them. We don’t want the recent migration outflow to Australia to turn from a trickle to a torrent.
“Businesses are already feeling gloomy about a move to less flexible and invasive employment law and they are unsettled by the Government’s ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration, a move that didn’t have the backing of officials or industry leaders.
“The implications of a CGT aren’t just a concern for the big end of town. Every community is hurt when factories and other workplaces relocate offshore or close, with the loss of jobs that support families up and down the country.
“The Labour-led Government is doing things that will make our economy weaker over coming years and New Zealand families are the ones that will be worse off as a result.”
The Government’s decision to axe completely the planned four lane highway from Christchurch to Ashburton shows it isn’t prepared to support regional New Zealand, MPs for Selwyn and Ashburton Amy Adams and Andrew Falloon say.
“National planned for the choked route between Christchurch and Ashburton to become a four-lane highway, with the road widened and oncoming traffic separated,” Ms Adams says.
“The Christchurch to Ashburton link is one of the busiest stretches of highway in the South Island and has become increasingly congested in recent years.
“NZTA have recently announced they are looking at installing median barriers on parts of the highway. This is a poor substitute for what is really needed. It appears NZTA is using this announcement of minor works to deflect attention from the fact that the required four laning and road separation will now not occur.
“The demand on the road has only increased, in the last 15 years international tourist numbers have more than doubled, the number of passenger vehicles has swelled, and due to a strong local economy more and more trucks are travelling on the road.
“Coupled with the continued success of Timaru’s PrimePort and the growth of the inland port at Rolleston, this has made the road the second most dangerous in the South Island.”
“Between 1 January 2010 and 31 March 2018 there were 19 deaths and 109 serious injuries on this stretch of road. The Government is ignoring these horrendous statistics, all in the pursuit of cutting costs out of the South Island roading budget,” Mr Falloon says.
“The planned new highway is sorely needed to improve safety, reduce congestion and minimise travel times for those commuting and transporting goods throughout the region. The existing road is becoming a handbrake on Canterbury’s growth.
“We need to be investing in the critical infrastructure that supports growth in our regional economies. Instead the Government has stripped billions of dollars from the regions and funnelled it back to Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s pet tram project in Auckland.
“The upgrade of the road is vital to ensure the safety of those travelling on the road, to better connect the regions and boost regional economic growth. The Government is putting savings ahead of safety.”
The drop in the unemployment rate is welcome news but the latest figures also highlight the growing pressures in an economy where business are struggling to find workers, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“The Government inherited a strongly performing economy and today’s employment data, being a lag indicator, reflects that and shows the importance of a well-performing, flexible labour market. The question then arises – why overhaul employment law now?
“In addition, surveys show difficulty in finding skilled workers and changes to employment law are among the biggest concerns for business and have contributed to a slump in confidence.
“Today’s numbers confirm what businesses have been saying for some time about labour market constraints are real and present a significant risk to future economic growth.
“Today’s numbers also reveal the cost of living challenges facing many New Zealand households. Behind the strong headline numbers, we saw wage growth at only 0.5 per cent in the latest quarter, half the growth rate of the cost of living (as measured by CPI).
“It’s pretty simple. Costs are going up faster than incomes. And that means many households are going backwards – particularly those on the lowest incomes.”
Drivers are already angry every time they fill up at the pump and they’ll take no comfort from the Government’s willingness to double-dip on tax if petrol prices keep rising, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“The Government imposed an excise tax increase of 4 cents a litre on petrol prices already at a record high and plans the same hikes in 2019 and 2020. It is stubbornly insisting more taxes are needed even though Kiwis are already reeling from rising living costs.
“The Associate Finance Minister has today signalled there will be no let-up for motorists if prices keep rising even though the Government may end up raking in as much in additional GST as it would from increases in excise. For example, if petrol prices go up by 30 cents, the GST on that alone would be 4 cents.
“The Government should cancel further fuel taxes if petrol prices keep rising as it will generate the same revenue from the GST alone. It should also own up to its part of the pain inflicted on drivers, since more than half the pump price is tax, instead of shifting all the blame onto oil companies.
“Fuel prices drove up consumer prices in the third quarter but the full impact on New Zealand’s economy is only starting to be felt as it shows up in the transport cost of getting raw materials to factories and finished goods and services to consumers.
“The Government insists more excise taxes and regional fuel tax are needed to fund infrastructure. A better strategy would be to cut wasteful spending like the $2.8 billion on fees-free tertiary education that hasn’t boosted numbers or the money thrown at a gondola for Whakapapa ski field.
“National would restore a policy framework that promotes economic growth, which is the only sustainable way to increase job opportunities and wages. Squeezing more tax out of motorists isn’t the answer.”
Figures today show a falling New Zealand dollar, rising fuel prices and bad Government policies are driving up the cost of living for Kiwi families, National Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“The rising cost of living is making it more and more difficult for New Zealanders to get ahead and a large part of the rising costs is directly attributable to bad Government policies.
“Higher fuel taxes, a lower dollar and rising oil prices are contributing to a record high price of petrol. Petrol prices surged 19 per cent in the past year alone. Sadly, these costs are disproportionately hurting low income earners who tend to commute further and drive less fuel-efficient cars.
“Rising fuel costs flow through into the prices of everything that must be transported, be that raw materials being trucked to factories or food being delivered to supermarkets.
“New Zealanders also face rising housing and living costs and their costs are only going to rise further because the Government is planning more taxes, more wasteful spending and policies that drive up costs throughout the economy.
“The Reserve Bank’s decision to hold interest rates lower for longer reflects its view that the economy has weakened. That contributes to a lower Kiwi dollar and increases the price of imported goods that New Zealand families use every day.
“As today’s inflation statistics show, Government policies are increasing the cost of living and taking a much bigger chunk out of New Zealanders’ pockets than this time last year.
“National believes the best way to help New Zealanders get ahead is to let them keep more of what they earn. We would also restore a policy framework that promotes economic growth, which is the only sustainable way to increase job opportunities and wages.
The Government’s fuel tax increases have needlessly driven up the cost of living and should be repealed immediately, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“Yesterday Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters tried to defend fuel taxes saying 100 per cent of the hundreds of millions of dollars of fuel taxes being paid by motorists is going to roading infrastructure and maintenance.
“But this simply isn’t true.
“Earlier this year the Government changed the rules on fuel taxes and allocated billions of dollars away from state highways and into rail projects. This means motorists around the country are now paying fuel taxes to fund expensive rail projects and getting fewer new roads.
“This includes the proposed tram project in Auckland which will cost up to $6 billion.
“The problem is that the Government is not just spending fuel taxes on roads, they’re spending fuel taxes on expensive election promises without properly considering alternatives.
“National was committed to investing in major public transport solutions in Auckland without needing to raise new fuel taxes or impose regional fuel taxes.
“Our commitment to protect the public transport route and explore an advanced bus network was credible and much more cost-effective than Labour’s trams.
“NZTA has even advised the Government that other systems will offer the same benefits as trams and can be completed much faster and at a fraction of the cost.
“It is time for the Government to properly consider NZTA’s advice and look for more cost effective solutions that don’t involve ramping up costs on New Zealanders. If other transport options can be utilised the Government should scrap these new fuel taxes immediately.”
The Prime Minister yesterday used numbers that ignore the Government’s fuel tax hikes in an attempt to underplay its role in the pain inflicted on Kiwis at the pump, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“Jacinda Ardern claimed that Government taxes have only contributed 6.9 cents a litre to fuel price increases in the past year. But this is only the GST and Emissions Trading Scheme components and completely ignores the Government’s fuel excise tax of 4 cents a litre and the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax of 11.5 cents a litre.
“Adding in what the Prime Minister conveniently ignored shows taxes – the part the Government can control - accounted for a much larger proportion of the increase than claimed.
“The Government is piling on fuel taxes at the worst possible time, when petrol prices are already at record highs and the Kiwi dollar is falling. Instead of cancelling the increases she is insisting more tax hikes must be made in 2019 and 2020.
“The Prime Minister said New Zealanders were being ‘fleeced’ at the petrol pump but given how much of that can be sheeted home to this Government, the public is right to ask just who is doing the fleecing.
“The Government’s hasty response to public anger over petrol prices driving up the cost of living doesn’t ring true. The Prime Minister also claims to be rushing through legislation giving the Commerce Commission the power to investigate markets such as fuel.
“But the Commerce Amendment Bill that the Prime Minister cites was reported back on September 12 and could have been progressed last month. Instead, the Government gave priority to the Waka jumping legislation.
“The Government needs to stop inflicting new costs on New Zealanders. Being up front about the additional costs of fuel taxes would at least show that the Prime Minister understands the problem.”