Finance Minister Grant Robertson should explain why New Zealand needs to change its monetary policy objectives when under the current settings he inherited one of the best performing economies and employment rates in the developed world, says National Party Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams.
“When our Finance Minister justifies change on the basis that this is what happens in other parts of the world, and yet we have performed better economically than many over the last few years, then questions must be asked,” Ms Adams says.
“He should be looking more at the policies he can directly control. Labour’s policies in a whole range of areas like employment relations, investment, immigration and tax will only take job creation and prosperity in New Zealand backwards.
“In fact, the new Policy Targets Agreement signed by Mr Robertson today specifically removes reference to economic growth which puts him at odds with a number of the other countries he says he is seeking to emulate.
“In relation to the maximum employment criteria in the PTA, New Zealand already has the third highest rate of employment in the OECD.
“On one level this change means nothing as the Reserve Bank has always been required to consider growth, incomes, and standard of living - and therefore employment.
“However monetary policy can’t deliver strong employment on its own. It must be applied in parallel with government microeconomic policies that boost employment, as has occurred in the last few years.
“We’ll be watching closely to ensure Grant Robertson doesn’t point the finger at the Central Bank should job creation and employment slow.
“With regards to committee decision making, National is on record as supporting formalizing the current committee structure operated by the Bank.
“However we have reservations that the move to make a significant proportion of the committee ministerial appointed external members, and enabling a senior Government official to be part of all decision making meetings (albeit not voting), creates a real risk of unwarranted political influence over Monetary Policy settings."
The Government needs to be careful with its economic policy settings as Stats NZ figures show growth slowed slightly at the end of last year, National Party Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“While growth for the year is a respectable 2.9 per cent, that is significantly slower than the 4 per cent experienced in the 2016 year, and the 3.5 per cent and 3.6 per cent in the two years before that,” Ms Adams says.
“We saw a slight slowing of growth in the end of last year, as weather and policy uncertainty started to take a little bit of the shine off the New Zealand story. It’s worrying that growth has slowed in the fisheries, forestry and agriculture sectors.
“The Government needs to take notice and be careful that its economic policy settings don’t put a handbrake on New Zealand over the next few years at the very time the world economy is picking up speed.
“Labour’s policies in areas like international investment, employment relations, and immigration could all combine negatively to restrict the capacity of New Zealand businesses to grow and succeed. That would be a major missed opportunity for our country and its prosperity.
“The benefits of having growth almost continuously over the last seven years is apparent in a range of areas.
“As we saw yesterday we have reduced out international debt from 84 per cent of GDP down to 52.8 per cent of GDP over the last nine years. That’s a huge contribution to New Zealand’s economic sovereignty.
“And the strong Government books have flowed through into opportunities for increased investment like the initiatives in child poverty in last year’s budget which were largely picked up by the new Government.
“Now is not the time to put barriers in the way of growth. We have experienced what it is like to have a Government focused on the economic strength of our country. The new Government needs to make sure it doesn’t allow the opportunities we have as a country to drift away.”
New Zealanders will be deeply suspicious and rightly so about the Labour Party’s plan for new taxes as signalled today by their tax working group, National Party Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“What we’ve seen today from the Tax Working Group is a dressed up version of the old Labour Party plan to add a raft of new taxes,” Ms Adams says.
“A financial transactions tax, capital gains tax, a land tax, wealth taxes, environmental taxes; they all have one thing in common. It’s the return of Michael Cullen with his hands deep in the pockets of hardworking Kiwis trying to think of new ways to get more money from them.
“If the Government was serious about the stated aim of the Tax Working Group proposals being revenue neutral, the discussion document would include specific proposals to reduce the tax take in other areas. The document instead talks about the need for taxation to increase.
“Tax revenues are already going up because of the strong New Zealand economy. Three years ago the Government collected $66.6 billion in tax, it’s forecast to be $78.2 billion this year and $93 billion by 2021. That’s more than enough of an increase, even for a tax and spend Labour Party Government.
“Adding new taxes would only discourage savings, investment, and slow down the New Zealand economy.
“The public will be worried about the direction that the Tax Working Group appears to be taking. It’s hard enough for mum and dad investors to get a small nest egg together over their lifetime without it being subject to even more tax.
“With Sir Michael’s penchant for taxing people and Grant Robertson’s determination to spend a lot more money, storm clouds are gathering for hardworking Kiwis who already pay enough tax.”
New National Party Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams has signalled a strong focus on ensuring the continued success of the New Zealand economy and says she will fight hard against Government policies that will slow New Zealand down.
"New Zealand currently has one of the strongest economies in the western world. That's not an accident. That’s a result of the hard work of New Zealanders backed by the strong economic plan of the previous National-led Government,” Ms Adams says.
"New Zealand succeeds best when we are open and connected with the world. I'm looking forward to getting out and meeting with and listening to successful exporters and employers in the weeks ahead.
"National will be advancing new economic and social policies ahead of the next election, but first we have to stop the threat posed by Labour’s economic mismanagement.
"Many of the Labour-led Government's planned policy changes will sacrifice our economic success and make it harder for New Zealand businesses to compete and succeed.
"These changes are bad for all of us. Slower business growth means less investment, fewer job opportunities, and lower wages generally than would otherwise be the case.
"Already businesses are less confident now than they were six months ago, despite the world economy steadily strengthening over this time.
Ms Adams singled out Labour's overseas investment changes, employment law changes, and proposed new taxes as things that would ankle-tap the country's medium-term economic performance.
"In Select Committee National MPs are constantly hearing how the Overseas Investment Bill will chill foreign investment. That's bad for housing construction, bad for the regions, and bad for our economy overall.
"And now the Government’s Tax Working Group is clearly looking to design a more redistributive tax system that removes any incentives for New Zealanders to work hard and get ahead.
“The Government needs to focus on the quality and quantity of their new spending. They are continuously ramping up expectations. I’ll be keeping a close eye on their approach to spending taxpayers’ money.
"This Government needs to heed the lessons of success and stop trying to introduce policies that will only take us backwards and damage the economic security of all New Zealanders.”
Quite how the Government thinks it can reduce the prison population without reducing serious crime is beyond comprehension, National’s Justice spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“The Government is deluded at best and soft at worst if it thinks that it doesn’t need a crime reduction target in order to reduce the prison population.
“People aren’t sent to prison for the hell of it. There is a very high threshold – a person has to have committed a very serious crime or be a repeat offender to end up in prison.
“So it was startling to hear the Chief Executives of both the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Corrections yesterday admit that their agencies are no longer working towards the previous Government’s target of 10,000 fewer serious crimes by 2021.
“Instead, they are now being instructed by the new Government to focus only on a target of reducing the prison population by 30 per cent over 15 years.
“In light of the Justice Minister’s statements to media in the weekend and the Prime Minister’s comments in the House this week, it appears the Government’s approach to meeting its target may revolve simply around loosening bail, sentencing and parole laws which could place the community at real risk.
“Surely success must be measured by there being fewer crimes and fewer victims. But it seems the Government thinks it’s more important that there are fewer people in prison, regardless of how serious their crimes may be.
“Letting serious criminals out of prison so that the Government can boast about meeting its target will be of no comfort to the victims that these offenders will surely rack up when they’re let loose on the public.”
Once more we are seeing big talk from the Government translating into no ideas, no plan and no money – this time it’s the Government promise to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent, National’s Justice spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“After the much vaunted first 100 days, all the Minister can say is they are still thinking about it and now they have scrapped the Justice Sector Fund from which innovative justice initiatives are funded.
“The Government is so short on cash after spending it all on tertiary students that we now know it will be taking money from the Justice Sector Fund to address basic cost pressures. In doing so it will be taking away funding that could be used for new initiatives to address the prison population and the core drivers of crime.
“The Justice Sector Fund, introduced by the previous Government, allowed underspends from all law and order agencies to be reinvested in trialling new initiatives to improve justice outcomes, many of which were targeted to Māori who have long been overrepresented in the justice system. It also encouraged ministries to use funds wisely as they were able to access savings for good new ideas.
“The Government has talked a big game about reducing the prison population but seems to have no idea how to do it. We know that by the time a person gets to prison, more often than not they’ve lived a life of crime and to break the cycle, we must try new things.
“The Justice Sector Fund enabled that. Some of the initiatives it funded include the community justice panels, alcohol and drug courts, family violence services and the Gang Intelligence Centre – all of which have helped reduce crime and reoffending. Between 2011 and 2016 total crime fell 14 per cent and the number of reoffenders dropped 26 per cent.
“National acknowledged there was still more to do, particularly for Māori which is why we set a target to reduce the Māori reoffending rate by a further 25 per cent by 2025. As well as that, in 2017 we put aside a further $10 million in the Justice Sector Fund specifically for Māori justice initiatives. That money appears to have now been taken by the new Government to manage their own budget instead of looking at how to better deliver for Māori.
“It appears the new Government has its head in the sand and is scrapping the Justice Sector Fund at the same time as it’s talking about reducing the prison population by 30 per cent.
“What exactly is the Government’s plan, short of letting violent criminals out of prison earlier and loosening up bail laws? Unfortunately these sorts of ideas are typical of the soft-on-crime Labour Party.
“Talk won’t address crime and the prison rates, action is needed,” Ms Adams says.
The Labour-led Government’s planned labour market reforms would mean fewer jobs for Kiwi workers, increases in the cost of living and make our businesses less competitive, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“These reforms can only reverse the very positive job market New Zealand has enjoyed over the last few years,” Ms Adam says.
“Changes like the end of the starting out wage, the effective removal of 90 day trials for businesses with more than 20 staff, consecutive unsustainable leaps in the minimum wage, reduced flexibility, and 70s style standardised wages bargaining will all increase risks and costs for small and medium-sized businesses.
“Already we are seeing businesses across the country lose confidence and saying they are planning on hiring fewer people. Fear of these reforms are one of the big reasons for that decline in sentiment.
“Many New Zealand businesses compete internationally. There is every chance these changes will simply shift Kiwi jobs offshore.”
Ms Adams says that New Zealand has an enviable track record over the last few years of lifting employment and growing wages.
“Under National, 245,000 jobs were created in the last two years. Wages are growing at twice the rate of inflation and we now have the third highest employment rate in the OECD.
“All the evidence is that our current employment settings are some of the best and most successful in the world. Labour needs to explain why bringing in reforms that have strangled growth in other economies is a good idea.”
Ms Adams says National is today launching a campaign, “protect NZ jobs”, to explain the proposals and enlist small and medium sized businesses to fight the reforms.
“Labour must understand that forcing extra costs on small and medium sized businesses is not ‘working with them’. And you don’t improve things for New Zealand workers by increasing the cost of goods made in New Zealand.”
For more information visit www.protectNZjobs.co.nz
The Labour-led Government’s employment law changes announced today can only slow down New Zealand’s high-performing job market, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“These changes will only reduce job opportunities and wage growth, especially for those vulnerable workers on the edges of the labour market. They also mean workers will have less flexibility to get their job done,” Ms Adams says.
“The law as it stands encourages all businesses, small and large, to grow their workforces and take a chance on new workers and long-term unemployed people.
“While Labour have now partially backed down and allowed small businesses to continue with 90 day trials, they’ve still closed those trials off to the bigger businesses that take on many of these vulnerable workers. Those workers will have fewer opportunities.
“If 90 day trials are okay for small businesses, then why shouldn’t they apply to larger businesses as well?”
Ms Adams says that with New Zealand’s world-leading performance in job creation over the last few years, the onus was on the government to justify the need for the reforms.
“Under current employment law New Zealand has added a mammoth 245,000 jobs in the last two years and has the third highest employment rate in the developed world. Nearly 80 per cent of New Zealand workers are in full-time jobs and wages have been growing at twice the rate of inflation.
“These changes will only damage that track record. So why are they actually needed?
“New Zealanders will rightly suspect they are a random union wish list. People will be asking exactly how much influence these unions have in the current Government.
“These reforms will further damage business confidence and take New Zealand backwards. They will only disrupt New Zealand’s settled and successful employment law.
“That’s not good news for jobs or wages for New Zealanders.”
The Coalition Government must be deeply worried about maintaining internal discipline within their own Caucuses given they are attempting to ride rough shod over our democratic processes by preventing individual MPs from standing up for the voters that elect them, National’s Justice Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“Last week the Coalition introduced what is colloquially known as ‘Waka Jumping’ legislation. It might be more accurately called the ‘Winston Peters Self Preservation Bill’ as it was clearly his bottom line for entry into the Coalition.
“The Bill would effectively prevent individual Members of Parliament from speaking out on points of principle and policy, and ensuring the voices of their communities are heard. Worse still, it would enable party leaders to advise the Speaker that a Caucus member isn’t acting as the leader would want and then move to force that member out of Parliament.
“This makes individual MPs more answerable to their party leader than to the voters that elected them. Allowing party leaders to overrule the wishes of voters is fundamentally wrong,” Ms Adams says.
“This is about ensuring the factions within New Zealand First, Labour and the Greens are kept from raising objections to the direction of the Government or threatening the leadership of their respective parties.
“The reason the Coalition Government wants to push this piece of legislation through as one of their first bills is to ensure unhappy MPs don’t jump ship. From going soft on crime and immigration to removing benefit sanctions to pushing up taxes on New Zealand families, New Zealand First are having to swallow a whole lot of dead rats which their voters just do not support.
“Overriding democracy to entrench your own political position is an abuse of power of the worst kind.”
Documents on the Pike River Recovery Agency show that while the Minister will decide whether a re-entry goes ahead, it will be the agency’s chief executive who will be liable if any re-entry goes wrong, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“This Government has continued to make entering Pike River a political decision but this is patently wrong. While there’s been lots of talk about how Mr Little will be responsible for his decisions, it will be some poor senior public servant who carries the can.
“It is wrong to put a Chief Executive in this position. He or she will have to carry out what their political masters decide in a very unsafe environment. Why would any sensible person put their hand up for that job?”
Ms Adams says the Coalition went against official advice which was to make the final decision-maker independent of politicians.
“That would have been the responsible approach which fairly reflected the dangers of re-entering the mine. This undermines the very health and safety laws which were strengthened in the wake of the Pike River disaster to try and ensure it never happens again.”
Ms Adams also notes that the mission of the agency has changed from the Government’s pre-election commitments.
“Up until now all their talk has been about manned re-entry into the mine. Now the papers tell us it’s about achieving manned re-entry of the drift only, all bar 400 metres of which has already been explored.”