The Government’s need to put Winston Peters first might be responsible for a major reduction in the number of inspectors charged with investigating child sex offences, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“In spite of having a billion dollars to throw at foreign aid and diplomats and $2.8 billion to make university free, the Government’s priorities have led to a reduction by one third of frontline staff in a critical unit charged with protecting the most vulnerable New Zealanders.
“The Department of Internal Affairs has said it will have to slash the number of fully trained inspectors from its censorship unit who are charged with investigating the creation and distribution of child sex imagery.
“DIA’s impending restructure will mean there will be only 10 investigators instead of 15, despite official advice which clearly outlines the need to increase the number of investigators.
“This appalling decision will leave more New Zealand victims unable to be identified and protected, and mean more New Zealand perpetrators remain free to ruin more lives.
“It will also mean New Zealand will not meet its international commitments under the Global Alliance Combatting the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Online to reduce the number of new child pornography images uploaded and the number of victims identified.
“Let’s not forget this decision is on top of the Government’s soft on crime stance, its pledge to put more offenders on the street by cutting the prison population by 30 per cent and its broken promise to recruit an extra 1800 new frontline police.
“This Government simply has its priorities wrong. It’s choosing diplomats over doctors and it’s putting political payback over protecting our most vulnerable. It’s not good enough and the Government needs to get its priorities right.”
The Government that promised not to increase the tax burden on Kiwis is already setting out to suck up the spare cash of Kiwi families and load more debt onto future generations, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“The Ardern-Peters Government talks a lot about lifting people’s incomes but not only do they refuse to let people keep more of what they earn, they’re actively taking more cash out of people’s wallets,” Ms Adams says.
“If you just take the petrol tax increases, the new regional fuel tax, the five year bright line test and the Amazon tax, then you have Kiwis paying around $2.27 billion more tax over the next four years.
“This from a Government who said they would introduce no new taxes in their first term.
“And of course they also cancelled National’s tax cuts which made an average income earner $1060 a year better off.
“Despite taxing more, the Government’s spending promises mean they are also planning to borrow an extra $10 billion over the next four years – increasing debt servicing costs by around $1.114 billion over this period, or $650 per household.
“Borrowing more and taxing more in strong economic conditions makes no sense and risks undoing all the hard work New Zealanders have done over the last few years.
“The Government’s total tax revenue is already predicted to increase nearly $20 billion by 2022 as the economy grows before additional taxes. Surely that’s enough for the spending wish list of any reasonable Government.
“This is real money being hoovered out of the pockets of New Zealand families.
“When New Zealanders wonder who to blame when they don’t seem to be getting any reward from a strong economy - all they have to do is look at Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson.”
The Finance Minister is already reduced to re-announcing five month old news in his major pre-Budget speech this morning, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“Grant Robertson’s key announcement today was exactly what he told us at his half-yearly update in December, namely that there would be a $42 billion capital spend over the next five years.
“It’s bizarre that he has absolutely nothing new to say in the pre-budget announcement for his first budget.
“What this number means in reality is that the Government will be racking up a further $10 billion of debt on behalf of New Zealanders despite having inherited a strong economy and growing surpluses.
“Business confidence is low with exporters and employers worried about the direction the Ardern-Peters Government is taking New Zealand in. This was Grant Robertson’s opportunity to reassure business leaders about his plan for New Zealand’s future economic growth. Instead he has re-heated five month old news.
“This Government is spending more, borrowing more and taxing people more, yet he has laid out no plans for how New Zealand can earn more.
“Actually they are pulling the handbrake on growth by attacking the regions, key industries like oil and gas, and our farmers.
“Surely New Zealanders deserve better than repeating five month old news.”
This weekend marks the point where ordinary hard-working New Zealanders start paying for the misguided policies of the Ardern-Peters Coalition Government, National Party Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“National’s 2017 Budget would have made workers on the average wage $1000 a year better off starting from this weekend thanks to tax threshold changes,” Ms Adams says.
“Also from this weekend superannuitant couples would have been better off by $676 a year in their superannuation.
“Instead, under the Labour-NZ First Coalition Government most hard-working wage earners get nothing on 1 April, and superannuitants and those receiving working for families will have to wait an extra three months for any gain. Even then superannuitants will simply be given the poorly conceived and designed winter energy payment which is neither for energy nor for winter.”
Ms Adams says workers and superannuitants are paying a big price just so that first year university students can get one year’s free tuition.
“All the money Labour saved from cancelling the tax changes has gone straight to first year tertiary students in a failed policy that has resulted in no extra people studying.
“Meanwhile the health sector has so far seen less than nothing - with the previous Government’s $100 million investment in new mental health initiatives sitting on the shelf. The allocation for health in the next budget is unlikely to be any more than what National would have provided.
“Cancelling National’s tax changes for hard working Kiwis and giving the money to tertiary students is poor policy.
“Unfortunately it’s now happening under Ardern and Peters.”
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.