The Government is going to have to walk back another of its key policy planks after the Trade Minister’s plan for a tax on water exports was confirmed as illegal by his own officials, National Party Leader Bill English says.
“The Labour NZ First coalition agreement includes a pledge to introduce a tax on bottled water exports – proposed by Trade Minister David Parker.
“But today, Mr Parker’s trade officials confirmed that a tax on bottled water would not only breach the CPTPP trade agreement, but also New Zealand’s existing free trade agreements.
“While the idea has merit - and the previous Government took the responsible step of seeking recommendations on the matter - the new Government has committed to it without even seeking advice from its legal and trade experts on whether or not such a tax is possible.
“This next backtrack follows u-turns and broken promises on immigration, national standards, GST on online goods, Pike River, partnership schools and their promise to be more transparent – among others.
“This Government is developing a reputation for being secretive and disorganised – and for failing to follow through on its promises.
“New Zealanders deserve better,” Mr English says.
The Prime Minister needs to release the Government’s secret agreement with NZ First which the Deputy Prime Minister says outlines the way ministers will behave, deal with the media and be held accountable, National Party Leader Bill English says.
“The document, confirmed by Winston Peters, goes to the very heart of the formation of the New Government.
“It is unacceptable for the Prime Minister to claim it’s not public information. It is and the public deserves to know how the new Coalition, and therefore the country, will be run.
“This is not the openness and accountability promised by Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters and enshrined in the public version of their Coalition agreement.
“It’s certainly not them living up to their promise to ‘strengthen New Zealand's democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information’.
“This lack of transparency is becoming a habit for this Government. It is also refusing to answer even the most basic questions in Parliament as well as written questions from Opposition MPs and queries from the media.
"It doesn't seem to understand that part of running a country is being sufficiently organised to be up front and to justify and explain the decisions it is making which affect the lives of New Zealanders.
“When these decisions continue to be so ill-thought through and rushed then that’s of even more concern. They appear to be both disorganised and secretive.
“New Zealanders deserve to know what Labour has promised NZ First and how this agreement affects them,” Mr English says.
The Prime Minister needs to show the common sense and compassion missing from her Workplace Relations Minister and right the wrong that prevents new parents taking leave together to spend time with their newborns, National Party Leader Bill English says.
National has proposed a change to the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill that would allow both parents to take paid parental leave at the same time, if that is what suits them best.
“The Government is refusing to recognise that parents are best-placed to make their own decisions, and should be free to take leave together to spend time with their new baby, should they choose.
“This would ensure parents can be at home together supporting each other and bonding with their babies in those important and stressful early months.
“Why should parents of a very sick child, or families where a parent is suffering from post-natal depression, not have that choice?
“We know that members of the Labour caucus also support the idea and are disappointed Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway is stubbornly rejecting a good thing on what are clearly flimsy grounds.
“The Prime Minister should acknowledge this is an idea that would really benefit parents and new babies, and overrule her Minister to make it happen.
“The Bill, which National supports, isn’t due to become law until July so the good news for the Government is it’s not too late to do the right thing.
“With the Bill back before the House tonight, National will move a second motion to refer the Bill to select committee to allow this change to be incorporated.
“The Prime Minister now has another opportunity to right this wrong. I encourage Ms Ardern to do so.”
TPP leaders must work to resolve their differences to ensure the real benefits from the agreement are realised, National Party Leader Bill English says.
“News out of Vietnam that an agreement has not been reached is deeply disappointing and represents a real missed opportunity for New Zealand and the countries of the Asia Pacific to do better.
“The TPP is hugely important for promoting growth and stability in our region. It would make a genuine difference to the lives of New Zealanders and those in the other TPP countries, helping grow businesses, create jobs, raise incomes and lift people out of poverty.
“It would mean more opportunities for our exporters through significantly improved access to markets including Japan, Vietnam, Mexico and Peru. It would put our exporters on a more level playing field and we know that when given those opportunities, they will succeed.
“I urge all parties to get back around the table and resolve any outstanding differences, and encourage the New Zealand Government to do everything it can to bring Canada into the camp and conclude the deal.
“Most of the work has been done and a high-quality trade deal all but completed. Seeking changes opens the door to other countries seeking concessions, as we are now seeing, and jeopardises years of hard work and tense negotiations and an agreement with real benefits.
“The previous National Government, backed by New Zealand’s outstanding trade officials, fought hard for this deal over many years because it was in the best interests of New Zealand.
“We believe in the benefits of free trade, including growing our national prosperity and helping to lift people out of poverty.
“The Government can be assured of National’s full support to get the agreement over the line because TPP11 is in the best interests of New Zealand and our region.
“It must do it all it can to get the agreement over the line” Mr English says.
The Government must pull out all the stops to complete TPP11 in Vietnam this weekend and it can be assured of National’s support for a high-quality free trade agreement if it does so, National Party Leader Bill English says.
“New Zealand has been at the forefront of both initiating the original TPP agreement and then pulling TPP11 back together after the US withdrew. Officials and Ministers have done the hard work, it’s time to finish the job.
“The former Government took the lead because the agreement has such significant benefits for New Zealand – including significantly improved access to the world’s third-largest economy, Japan.
“It will help grow jobs and incomes for New Zealanders, and in spite of Labour’s previous opposition, and opposition from its fellow governing parties NZ First and the Greens, it now needs get the agreement over the line.
“Agreements have already been reached to remove or restrict a number of concessions granted to the US under the original TPP12 agreement, including around biologics and intellectual property.
“This should make TPP more palatable to Labour’s support partners who have a long history of voting against all free trade agreements.
“Regardless of the decisions of those support partners, we will guarantee our support for this agreement because we will do what’s best for New Zealand. Taking a bipartisan approach to TPP11 also means Labour can finish the job and not be held hostage by NZ First or the Greens in Parliament.
“Most of the work has been done already. It is a high-quality trade deal that will have real benefits for all 11 countries,” Mr English says. “It’s time to sign it.”
National Party Leader Bill English has challenged the new Government to continue to build on New Zealand’s success, making the most of the strong platform laid by the hard work of New Zealanders, backed by the former National Government.
“In the past decade New Zealand has experienced one of the fastest growing economies in the developed world, seen hundreds of thousands of jobs created, made real progress on tackling some of our most pressing social issues and led the world in pursuit of free trade.
“We are building houses in near record numbers, helping thousands of first home buyers into houses, seeing strong wage growth, closing the gender pay gap, reducing the number of preventable hospitalisations and lifting thousands of people out of poverty.
“That’s real success and that’s the challenge for this Government – to build on that progress and ensure New Zealand and New Zealanders continue to get ahead. It must do even more.
“We will hold it to account over its ability to improve the lives of New Zealanders beyond the impressive achievements of New Zealand in the last decade.
“We will hold it to account on its ability to grow wages, the economy and jobs, to improve lives and rates of benefit dependence, achievement in schools, and to lower crime rates.
“The National Party is New Zealand’s largest ever Opposition.
“We will ensure we use that to hold the Government to account to ensure New Zealanders continue to get ahead.”
National has supported Trevor Mallard’s appointment as Parliament’s Speaker as a result of his repeated expressions of support for a robust and fair Parliament, committed to holding the Government to account.
“The National Party accepted Labour’s nomination for Speaker because Mr Mallard has professed strong views about how Parliament can work better,” National Party Leader Bill English says.
“He said just this year there is no need for urgency in the modern Parliament and he’s also expressed clear views about a greater role for select committees, and the Opposition on them, in scrutinising legislation in detail.
“As he has said, these committees are ‘not rubber stamps for the executive’ and passing legislation under urgency is ‘a lazy approach to avoid the proper scrutiny of select committees’.
“We have taken him at his word that he will be a Speaker who can be Parliament’s man, not the Government’s, and who understands that one of the most important things for good government is a strong Opposition in a Parliament that holds the executive to account.
“National is committed to holding the Government to account. We will ensure it continues to build on New Zealand’s success, supporting it where its efforts will do so, and critiquing and opposing where we believe it won’t.
“National is the Parliament’s largest party and we will ensure that counts. Mr Mallard’s strong support for a robust Parliament will help ensure we perform that role effectively.”
National Party Leader Bill English has unveiled a strong Opposition team which will hold the Government to account and ensure it does not squander the opportunities New Zealanders have created for our country in recent years.
“New Zealand is doing well, with low unemployment, thousands of jobs being created every month, strong public services and New Zealanders getting ahead,” Mr English says.
“That’s a direct result of the hard work and dedication of New Zealanders who have operated confidently with the support of a clear and consistent economic plan and a government focused on achieving measurable results.
“We will be pushing the new Government to maintain that success and that focus.
“Today I am announcing our Opposition lineup which makes the most use of our dedicated and talented caucus. We are the largest Opposition Party New Zealand has ever seen, and the largest party in Parliament. We will ensure we make those numbers count.
“I have ensured we make the most of the experience and knowledge of our former ministers, while also utilising the talents of our large caucus who are passionate about New Zealand’s future.
“All but the latest intake of MPs have been allocated portfolios. Those MPs will be given time to understand Parliamentary processes and work alongside our spokespeople, and be allocated portfolios in due course.
“We will be a strong and loyal Opposition. We are ambitious for New Zealand – and we remain committed to building a stronger, more confident and more prosperous nation.
“We will work tirelessly to ensure New Zealand continues to succeed and New Zealanders continue to get ahead, while holding the current Government to account on any decisions that place that progress at risk.”
New Zealand’s strong employment market and dropping unemployment rate reflects the hard work of all our businesses and the confidence they have had in the country’s economic plan over the last nine years, National Party Leader Bill English says.
“The unemployment rate at 4.6 per cent is now the lowest since the beginning of the global financial crisis,” Mr English says.
“At the same time, job growth of 56,000 in the quarter has seen the number of New Zealanders employed rise to nearly 2.6 million, which is the highest ever.
“And in addition, the average wage has increased to $59,840 – up more than 28 per cent over National’s time in office.
“That’s growing businesses, thousands more jobs and thousands more New Zealanders in work and getting ahead. That’s genuine success and a great platform for New Zealand to build on,” Mr English says.
The employment rate at 67.8 per cent and the Labour Force Participation Rate at 71.1 per cent are now both the highest they have ever been.
“These results show the importance of the business sector having confidence in the economic direction of the country,” Mr English says.
“I’d encourage the incoming government to work to maintain this confidence and the confidence of New Zealanders in our successful, open and growing country. They should continue to back New Zealanders.
“It is our intention to hold the new government to account to ensure they don’t fritter away the great gains made by New Zealand workers and businesses in recent years that have given this country the third highest employment rate in the whole of the developed world.”
Today’s announcement that there will be 31 ministers, ministers outside Cabinet and under-secretaries in the new executive shows the incoming government intends to use taxpayer money to solve political problems, National Party Leader Bill English says.
“There is no justification for such a bloated executive. National and its partners have run effective governments for nine years with no more than 28 ministers and under-secretaries.
“Even the big-spending Helen Clark government never had more than a 28 member executive,” Mr English says.
“This is simply a make-work scheme for Labour, NZ First and Green politicians.
“If the new government takes the same approach with other areas of government spending, it will not be long before Deputy Prime Minister-elect Winston Peters’ gloomy prophecy of an economic decline becomes true,” Mr English says.