The spectacle of the Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters trash-talking one of New Zealand’s leading businesses, Fonterra, explains why business confidence continues to plumb new depths under this government, National’s Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
Mr Peters has been taking pot shots at Fonterra since yesterday, after the news it was selling Tip Top to UK-based Froneri for $380 million.
“If a Kiwi business wants to sell one of its assets in order to put the money into other parts of its business, or to pay back debt, that’s its choice,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“No Kiwi business should have to put up with wild, grandstanding attacks from the Acting Prime Minister, criticising their judgment and implying, impotently, that the deal shouldn’t be allowed to happen.
“Just what is Mr Peters saying? Is he proposing that all foreign investment should be banned? Is he saying that once a Kiwi business owns something it should only ever be able to sell it to locals?
“The reality is, he is doing nothing except having a spray at the expense of what he thinks is a soft target. Just like his colleague Shane Jones does, on a regular basis.
“And is there any wonder that business confidence is so low? Mr Peters co-leads a government that has presided over a dramatic fall in economic growth during the past 18 months, from nearly four per cent down to nearly two per cent.
“The Government likes to blame international events, but as the Reserve Bank Governor said last week, international growth is around average levels and domestic factors are equally important.
“Falling business confidence flows through to less investment. With less investment we get less new job growth. Job growth has fallen off a cliff these past 18 months.
“If Mr Peters wants to ban foreign investment in New Zealand business he has the power to do it. If not, he should give the business leaders of this country the dignity of his silence.”
Halfway through the Government’s term we still can’t get a straight answer from Shane Jones on how many jobs have been created from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“Mr Jones went on national television to claim 562 actual jobs were generated by the $3 billion slush fund. He insisted none of them were contractors but the figures – extracted at length from his office – tell a different story. His tally includes at least 405 contractors and 200 of the jobs were short term and no longer exist.
“The one straight answer we’ve had from the Provincial Development Unit (PDU) shows that with a third of the projects counted just six permanent, sustained jobs had been created by the end of January. The Provincial Development Unit is shamefully refusing to release the full count, but indications are it could be even fewer than the 54 jobs we counted in February.
“This comes at a time when new jobs right across the economy are drying up. The 10,000-new-jobs-a-month boom under the last two years of National has shrivelled to a rate of 4000 a month under this government. In the past three months New Zealand actually lost jobs.
“This is powerful reminder that new jobs are created not by political slush funds but by the private sector responding to sound economic policies.
“Mr Jones and the PDU continue to hide the real information about what Kiwis are getting for all the money spent by Mr Jones, with frequent changes to the public data on its website. It now refers to ‘potential jobs that may be created’ having previously called them actual jobs.
“The feedback round the country is that Shane Jones is quick with a big announcement and very slow with the actual money. If he paid as much attention to competent delivery of useful projects as he did to PR and big announcements with hi-vis jackets, the regions would see more progress.
“The bogus job claims are yet another example of this Government’s lack of transparency and openness.
“We want our regions to prosper because what is good for our communities is good for New Zealand’s economic wellbeing. We need a productive, growing economy to meet the needs of all New Zealanders. National has a proven track record as competent economic managers.”
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Shane Jones’ reprimand from the Speaker today for refusing to account for missing Provincial Growth Fund projects shows he has as little respect for Parliamentary process as he has for normal Ministerial conduct, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The Minister is on record saying 306 projects have been approved and announced under the $3 billion fund but only 187 projects are listed on the Provincial Development Unit’s website.
“We’ve simply been trying to find out about the missing 119 projects. This is, after all, a $3 billion fund of taxpayers’ money.
“Mr Jones and the Provincial Development Unit have repeatedly ignored questions about the whereabouts of the missing 119 projects. The Minister is now saying that ‘all projects that have been announced appear on the website’ yet they clearly do not.
“The PGF was among the bounty Labour gave to NZ First as a reward for supporting the coalition. The result is a slush fund that lacks transparency and is being treated as NZ First’s campaign chest for the 2020 election.
“Mr Jones has an appalling track record of inappropriate behaviour, conflicts of interest and lack of accountability. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has shown no ability to maintain order and discipline in her coalition Government.
“National believes in sensible policies that drive economic growth, help businesses create more jobs and ensure the delivery of world-class public services like education and health. We believe in open, accountable Government based on prudent, properly assessed policies.”
The upper North Island freight system is too important to New Zealand to be left as a political play-thing of NZ First Ministers and their political agendas, National’s Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The Interim report of the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy Working Group, chaired by former Far North District Council mayor Wayne Brown shows a thinly disguised preference for massive investment in rail between South Auckland and Northport, leading to a shift of activity away from the Ports of Auckland to Northport.
“It also seems to be peddling the concept of a nationalised ports monopoly in the upper North Island. There is no evidence or analysis to back up the suggestion that such a nationalised monopoly would be more efficient than current arrangements.
“There is no evidence to suggest the billions it would cost to upgrade rail from Auckland to Whangarei, plus building a new spur to Marsden point and a new freight line across Auckland, would be the best use of scarce transport resources and would lead to a better outcome for exporters or consumers.
“Instead, the report argues ‘strategic vision’ is more useful than business cases when thinking about such major investments. Having Wayne Brown chair the Working Group is like having Michael Cullen chair the Tax Working Group – the outcome of the report is effectively predetermined.
“The Government is quite right to be inquiring into the efficiency of freight movements across the Upper North Island and to be planning for the long-term future. We support careful and considered planning of future investment. Which is why National has supported the Government’s planned Infrastructure Commission to advise on such things. The direction of this report, however, undermines the Infrastructure Commission approach.”
Those frustrated motorists who are facing long waiting times on our regional roads this weekend will have to face reality that under this Government there is no help is on the way, National’s Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“Kiwis across the country heading home from holiday will be disappointed the Government has made a deliberate decision to invest nothing into reducing travel times and relieving congestion.
“National had committed to major investment across New Zealand’s regions to fund much needed highway projects, the second generation of our Roads of National Significance. These projects would have dramatically reduced road harm, created jobs and provided economic opportunities.
“The question needs to be asked, is any of the ‘improvement’ work the Government is undertaking going to improve travel times?
“New Zealanders stuck in long lines of traffic in Otaki can thank the Government for re-evaluating the Horowhenua Expressway. The same goes for Kiwis heading between Tauranga and Hamilton – Transport Minister Phil Twyford stripped funding for the Expressway Extension project which would have delivered a safer commute.
“Mr Twyford has ignored the very real fears Bay of Plenty locals have for their safety when travelling from Tauranga to Katikati and has downgraded the Expressway National committed to. The Minister has also axed the planned four lane highway from Christchurch to Ashburton, showing his Government isn’t prepared to support regional New Zealand.
“New Zealand has a growing population and we need to be investing in infrastructure to ensure Kiwis can continue to get around the country. The Government’s only answer is to reduce speed limits and reduce opportunities to overtake.
“National had planned to do so much more and in some cases work would have already begun on roads, but the current Government has changed that. Regions are now making do with half measures and compromises that in most cases won’t do the job.
“With New Zealanders paying more across the country in fuel taxes, they shouldn’t be spending more time stuck in traffic, instead they should be seeing extensive investment in their regional roads.”
Continuing this Government’s trend of cynically dropping bad news on a Friday afternoon was today’s announcement that New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) Chair Michael Stiassny is resigning, National Transport Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“It’s telling that he’s jumping ship only one year into a three year contract and goes to show how deep the rot is within NZTA at the moment.
“It’s easy to focus on Phil Twyford’s epic Kiwibuild failure but his mishandling of Transport has also been substantial. To lose a CEO and a freshly appointed Chair within a year is incompetent.
“Our lead Transport agency is in a state of internal chaos and that is adding to the lack of progress commuters and motorists see every day.
“We’ve seen regional roading funding stripped bare, no new roads and broken promises on rail since this Government came into power 18 months ago.
“National put a focus on infrastructure and roading when in Government and our Roads of National Significance initiative was working to improve road safety and travel times all over the country.
“This Government’s lack of action on Transport is getting beyond a joke, and the absence of consistent leadership up top is part of the problem. Phil Twyford needs to get the agency under control and ensure they’re making progress for New Zealanders.”
Revelations that Shane Jones wanted to spend taxpayers’ money on an unnamed regional airline which hadn’t even asked for funding are a new low in his handling of the $3 billion slush fund, National’s Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“Mr Jones’ comments to Newsroom indicate he was ‘keen for the proposal to go further’ but he failed to get support from his Labour Ministerial colleagues.
“It would be odd for the Government to invest in companies just so they could compete more effectively against a business the Government already part owns (Air New Zealand). It’s doubly odd to push for an investment when it hadn’t even been requested.
“Treasury’s comments were withering: The company ‘has not applied to the PGF for funding, and we have not seen any analysis of what benefit a $15 million investment in this company would provide’.
“It is tawdry that Mr Jones was pushing this plan at a time when he was carrying out a personal and public vendetta against the CEO of Air New Zealand.
‘One reasonable interpretation of events is that Mr Jones was angry with Air New Zealand’s leaders because they wouldn’t do his bidding and he wanted to teach them a lesson by strengthening the airline’s competitors.
“This will send a shudder through New Zealand business.
“Coming on the heels of his inappropriate intervention in a NZ Transport Agency regulatory matter, in direct contravention of the Cabinet Manual, it is abundantly clear that Mr Jones doesn’t understand appropriate Ministerial conduct.”
Today’s announcement that the cost of the country’s biggest transport project, Auckland’s City Rail Link, has ballooned out by $1 billion is extremely concerning and raises serious questions about the Government’s ability to manage major infrastructure projects, National’s Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“In what the Prime Minister calls the Government’s year of delivery, Transport Minister Phil Twyford has delivered one of the country’s biggest project blowouts.
“Mr Twyford and his officials appear to have mismanaged what are now ever increasing project costs. The Minister has ducked for cover and remained silent on the project blowout, but he’s the first to pose for photo opportunities.
“Hard working Kiwis will be worried about the freedom with which this Government spends their money.
“The Government should explain how the cost of the project has blown out by $1 billion since taking office 18 months ago and tell taxpayers how long they have known about this and how the costs will be met.
“The light rail project is well behind its timeline and National understands it’s also facing a budget blowout. It’s time for Mr Twyford to be more open and transparent with taxpayer’s money.
“The Government has also cynically released this information off the back of a confirmation from the Prime Minister there would be no Capital Gains Tax, right before the Easter long weekend. This isn’t the first time the Government has tried to hide bad news, and it won’t be the last.”
Despite his bluster in the House, there is no doubt Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones intervened in an NZ Transport Agency case against Semenoff Logging, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“This is contrary to the Cabinet Manual and in ordinary circumstances would lead to the Minister’s resignation. Ministers should never intervene in decisions around prosecutions.
“Mr Jones has confirmed in the House that he spoke to NZTA’s chief executive about the decisions and methods of the Semenoff prosecution. He told Newstalk ZB that he asked the NZTA chief for ‘clarification as to why they [NZTA] have been offering immunity and amnesty for Filipino truck drivers to, arguably, spy on New Zealand-owned businesses.’
“Today he accepted in the House that some of those ‘Filipino truck drivers’ no doubt worked for Semenoff Logging.
“Mr Jones intervened at a time when NZTA was deciding on its next steps in this case. The actions of this Cabinet Minister can only be construed as an attempt to influence the decision-making.
“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern needs to explain to New Zealanders why she thinks this is acceptable behaviour from one of her Ministers. She needs to stop making excuses for New Zealand First Ministers when they act in an inappropriate way.”
Shane Jones has inserted himself into a court case between the NZ Transport Agency and a Northland trucking firm by quizzing NZTA’s top executive about the conduct of the case, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The Associate Transport Minister has admitted asking NZTA’s CEO to explain the legal authority being invoked by Meredith Connell, the law firm hired to oversee the agency’s regulatory compliance cases.
“Today Mr Jones said he had promised the Prime Minister he would ‘don a cone of silence’ over the case but it is too late for that. He’s already signalled his displeasure about the case to the NZTA chief – what other inference could a senior public servant draw from such an approach?
“Mr Jones also acknowledged numerous conversations with Mr Semenoff in recent years in which the Northland businessman raised his views about NZTA. There can be little doubt the minister waded in with his eyes open. He may not have expected to be caught out again.
“This isn’t the first time Mr Jones has been conflicted as official papers show he was at meetings in 2018 when the Government decided to give $4.6 million to the Manea Footsteps of Kupe project. In that case, he denied involvement only to be caught out by the notes of officials who attended the meetings.
“It is disturbing that wearing his Regional Economic Development hat, Mr Jones has control of a $3 billion provincial slush fund which refuses to make public the salient details of its funding arrangements.
“National believes in open, accountable Government based on prudent, properly assessed policies.”