The dysfunction and disunity at the heart of the Government has again been put on display by Shane Jones, National’s Regional Economic Development Minister Paul Goldsmith says.
“It’s clear that New Zealand First is controlling this Government, with Mr Jones continuing to defy the Prime Minister by doubling down on his statements attacking Fonterra’s chairman.
“The Prime Minister has told Mr Jones off before for attacking business leaders. Yet in complete defiance of her, he did it again last week when he attacked Fonterra’s chairman.
“In an attempt to explain this away, the Prime Minister then said that he was speaking in a personal capacity, not as a Minister. Nobody believed that but if it had stopped there, it could have been, as the Prime Minister had hoped, ‘end of story’.
“But then Mr Jones repeated his statements in the House, as a Minister, making the Prime Minister look weak and powerless.
“And he’s done it again today, making it abundantly clear he doesn’t care at all about the Prime Minister’s attempts to discipline him, stating ‘what I said, I own’ and refusing to address the question.
“As the Speaker said today, ‘it is absolutely obvious that if a Member makes a statement in the House in response to a question as a Minister that he is speaking as a Minister’.
“Repeating his statement as a Minister in contradiction of the Prime Minister’s wishes is clear defiance.
“The Prime Minister may be in office, but she’s not in power. The real power lies with New Zealand First, who created this Government and who control this Government.”
Shane Jones’ defiance of the Prime Minister over repeatedly calling for the resignation or sacking of company leaders is a major test of her leadership, National’s Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“New Zealand First is in open defiance of the Prime Minister, with her Deputy suing her own Government and her Regional Economic Development spokesman defying her directive to tone down his destructive comments about New Zealand businesses.
“When Mr Jones called in March for Air New Zealand’s directors to resign the Prime Minister solemnly declared that ‘calling for the sacking of any board member is a step too far and I have told him that’.
“Well it turns out Mr Jones doesn’t care what the Prime Minister has said because he’s done it again, this time targeting Fonterra. It’s a second strike. But instead of a firm response we’ve seen the weasel words that ‘he was expressing a personal view’.
“This comes two days after the Prime Minister tried to claim Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters suing her own government was also a ‘private matter’.
“Well that’s nonsense. These are very public matters which goes to the heart of her Government’s dwindling credibility and the Prime Minister’s weak response underscores the fact she can’t control her own minister and her coalition partner, NZ First.
“Given the incredible lack of discipline and direction from the Government, it’s no wonder business confidence is plummeting.
“That’s worrying because when businesses hold off investing, all New Zealanders miss out on opportunities to get ahead and this Government is only making it worse.
“It’s unacceptable and the Prime Minister should give Mr Jones his final warning.”
The time has come for the Prime Minister to step in and discipline her Regional Economic Development Minister who repeatedly seeks publicity by attacking business leaders, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said today.
“Business confidence in New Zealand is plummeting and the reasons for that are mounting.
“The Government’s low growth policies like higher taxes and stronger unions are causing businesses to hire fewer people and invest less in growth and it has them concerned about the future of New Zealand and who can blame them?
“Because on top of that you have a loudmouth Regional Economic Development Minister who’s putting his own ego and need for publicity ahead of the interests of New Zealand.
“Shane Jones’ attacks on Fonterra’s leadership are the latest burp from a man who is fast losing any respect he once had.
“He says Fonterra’s leadership is ‘full of their own importance’. That sounds like a more apt description of himself.
“He even added he’s ‘worried about the absolute absence of accountability for the enormous amounts of dough that the current Fonterrra chairman has presided over’.
“This is startling hypocrisy from the same man who defended his own region getting the lion’s share of funding from his billion-dollar Provincial Growth Fund by stating ‘to the winner goes the booty’.
“Well it’s not his booty and it’s clear Shane Jones has no idea what accountability means.
“This Government has decided to spend $3 billion over the next three years on regional economic development, including roundabouts and church restorations. It’s critical the responsible is up to the job and focused on doing his job well.
“At the moment, all he seems good for is attacking business leaders whenever a few days have gone by without some of the media coverage for which he craves.
Shane Jones’ admission this morning that his Provincial Growth Fund is a political tool is backed up by new figures released this morning revealing Northland as the main recipient of taxpayers’ money, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The Provincial Growth Fund should really be renamed the Political Survival Fund after more than half the funding announced so far has gone to one region – one with less than 10 per cent of regional New Zealand’s population.
“MBIE information shows Northland has sought $54.6 million from the fund so far. Applications from all the other regions combined amounted to $240 million.
“Yet Northland projects have received funding up to $61 million – even more than they’ve asked for. While the rest of the regions have had to make do with $42.4 million combined, plus a $7.5 million grant to the Howard League covering the whole country, including Northland.
“Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and New Zealand First haven’t hidden the fact they see their party’s survival linked to winning a Northland seat. Now the Minister has confirmed that the rest of New Zealand are paying for it.
“The Minister’s ridiculous defence for the emphasis on Northland was simply ‘to the victor goes the spoils’. But New Zealanders will see it for what it is – shameless pork-barrelling.
“Prime Minister Ardern and the Labour Party should be ashamed for enabling such a misuse of public funds.
“Northlanders will be scratching their heads, wondering why some groups are getting all this attention, while the single most important investment for their region – the double lane highway from Wellsford to Whangarei has been scrapped in favour of Auckland’s light rail.
“Shanes Jones is being allowed to use public money for a thinly veiled political slush fund - but on the really big issues, such as advancing oil and gas production, there is no question that New Zealand First’s ‘provincial champion’ label is nothing more than wishful thinking.”
Small businesses continue to be treated with contempt by the Ardern-Peters Government with the Revenue Minister today exposing the lack of representation of small business owners on the Tax Working Group, National’s Revenue Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith and Small Business Spokesperson Jacqui Dean say.
“Apparently small business owners who are worried that their views won’t be heard at the table of the Government’s Tax Working Group need worry no longer,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“When asked by a member of his own party what input small business had had to the Tax Working Group, Revenue Minister Stuart Nash thought for a moment before telling the Select Committee that one of the members of the group has a wife who owns a pharmacy.
“It would be funny if it wasn’t true or about such a serious matter.
“Mr Nash’s comments are another example of the contempt with which small businesses continue to be held by this Government – the same Government that is adding labour costs at every turn and piling on uncertainty with its plethora of committees and working groups.
“I’m sure all members of the Tax Working Group will do their best for all New Zealanders, including a broad business perspective from Kirk Hope of Business NZ, as Mr Nash noted.
“But the Tax Working Group is simply the cover this Government is using to introduce its capital gains tax.”
Ms Dean says any such tax would be levied on businesses as well as properties.
“So a small business owner can spend their lives building up a business, perhaps have it grow into a medium-sized business, and when they eventually go to sell it, they’ll have to pay a capital gains tax on the value they have worked hard to create.
“It looks as though they’ll have to rely on some home truths being delivered by one of the Tax Working Group’s member’s spouses.”
The Government is proving again that it is all talk and little substance in regional New Zealand with its announcements in Northland today, National’s Transport Spokesman Jami-Lee Ross and Regional Development Spokesman Paul Goldsmith say.
“It’s unbelievable after several months that the best they can do for Transport in Northland is announce they are spending money on more business cases for road and rail,” Mr Ross says.
“How about getting on and building something decent like the four-laning of State Highway One between Auckland and Whangarei that they are so lukewarm about.
“Or they could commit to further upgrading the twin coast discovery route.
“A few million dollars from Shane Jones does nothing to make up for the billion dollar four lane highway that Phil Twyford has cancelled.
“Twyford is doing considerable damage by cancelling roading projects across the country, all so he can afford $6 billion worth of trams in Auckland.”
“The Provincial Growth Fund announcements are all worthy projects in themselves but they don’t come anywhere near making up for the anti-growth policies that this Government is pursuing,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“To really make progress in Northland they should be continuing to make investments in roading and be open to foreign investment to drive economic growth and job creation.
“The more appropriate name for it is the provincial compensation fund.
“As the Prime Minister almost said, the policies of the previous Government have already got unemployment in the region nearly halved down to 5.6 per cent.
“I suppose the Ministers are making themselves feel good but they’re doing nothing to actually drive long-term growth in the region.”
Shane Jones’ arrogant assertion that businesses struggling for workers should just invest in automation, rather than look for skilled immigration, is just the latest in a long list of unhelpful suggestions from an out-of-touch Government, National Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
Speaking at the National Party’s Lower North Island Regional Conference in Masterton this morning, Mr Goldsmith says business confidence is falling because the Ardern Peters Government has no positive economic plan and its leading Ministers demonstrate little understanding of business realities.
“Mr Jones might not ‘lose any sleep’ over firms struggling to find workers, but Kiwifruit growers, for example, certainly are,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“If there was a robot on the market that could reliably and efficiently pick the fruit, they’d use it, Mr Jones.
“The previous Government invested substantially in a Regional Research Institute based in Tauranga to advance progress in robotics in horticulture, to follow that example. But it will take years to perfect.
“Yet Mr Jones stands up and blusters away that we have too many immigrants, he doesn’t want them, and business should just lump it and invest in automation.
“This follows Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway’s suggestion that firms worried about the labour market reforms just aren’t resilient enough, and Economic Development Minister David Parker’s well-known contempt for farmers.
“Meantime the Budget showed plenty of spending, much of it poor quality, plenty of borrowing, increased taxes, and virtually nothing about how as a country we’ll earn more.
“Aside from an R&D tax break, which is likely to be a poor substitute for Callaghan grants and will be no use to start-up companies, there is nothing that is pro-growth.
“What businesses see is a Government that has been piling on anti-growth policies and working against them non-stop since the election.
‘They are down on oil and gas exploration, most farming, international investment, decent regional highways, 90 day trials, welfare sanctions that get people into work, faster resource management decisions, and tax policies that reward people for working hard.
‘New Zealand needs a Government that works with companies, not against them, one that is serious about economic growth.”
Yet another negative business confidence survey out today shows it is time for the Government to start listening to small and medium sized businesses, National’s Economic Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The Staples Rodway survey out today tells a damning story of loss of confidence, with more than half of respondents saying that they expect New Zealand’s economy to slow in the next year, and a similar number expecting the budget this week to be negative for the economy,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“That’s a big warning to this Government. New Zealand should be growing faster over the next year as the world economy picks up, not more slowly.
“Labour’s spin is that the drop in business confidence was temporary following the change of Government. Six months later and businesses are just as pessimistic.
“You only have to look at Iain Lees Galloway’s interview on employment relations from Sunday to see why. He showed no concern that some of the Government’s policies will drive people out of business and cost jobs.
“His arrogant high-handed approach to businesses is symptomatic of a Government that either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand that so many of its economic policies are anti-business and anti-growth.
“Loss of confidence is an early warning sign for lower investment, fewer jobs, and less tax money for Government services.
“New Zealand is a small country where nearly every business is a small business by world standards. Our companies need strong economic management to survive and prosper.
“The Government needs to understand that you can’t have a successful economy and a successful country without a strong small and medium sized business sector.
“It’s time it started listening.”
The Government risks serious damage to New Zealanders’ livelihoods by replacing the real productive economy with wishful thinking, National’s Economic Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“On TVNZ’s Q&A this morning, Economic Development Minister David Parker spoke of his wish to reduce the number of livestock in this country. He said horticulture, such as growing apricots, would be better for the environment.
“He said the problem was that it was too expensive to pick fruit in New Zealand. But, no worries, we’ll invest in robotics. Robots will pick the fruit and the economy will surge.
“This is wishful thinking on a grand scale and it fails on so many levels.
“Mr Parker also admitted that the Government hadn’t done an analysis of what the economic impact of his proposed shift away from current land use.
“We all agree with Mr Parker’s desire to improve our environment, but it’s much easier to stop doing things than it is to find viable replacements that will provide a good standard of living, to people living in our regions.
“His comments this morning were similar to the Government’s wishful thinking over oil and gas. We’ll trash a big part of the economy but don’t worry we’ll develop a clean energy industry that will more than make up for the losses.
“Real economic development is about more than flinging around loose ideas to make up for stopping significant parts of the economy.
“It’s actually amazing how carelessly and callously Government Ministers talk about playing with people’s jobs and livelihoods.
“For the sake of our regions in particular, this Government has to get its head out of the clouds and start being real.”
Shane Jones has lashed out once again as he struggles with being in a Government that is acting against the interests of regional New Zealand, National’s Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“Confronted with the reality of being part of a Cabinet that is systematically tearing down the foundations of regional prosperity, every few weeks Mr Jones chooses a new target to attack to try and pretend that he is the regions’ champion,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“This week’s target is officials in Government who apparently are slowing him down.
“Mr Jones is determined to shovel $3 billion of taxpayers’ precious money out the door as fast as possible. Anybody that troubles him with due process and asking pesky questions like ‘what are getting for this money?’ is abused.
“Softening the line’ between the Government and bureaucracy is code for removing any restraints from him, as a politician, allocating funding as he sees fit.
“He is already skating on thin ice with one of the murkiest fund-allocation processes known to mankind.
“One of the most precious things the Ardern-Peters Government has inherited from previous New Zealand Governments of every political persuasion is an international reputation for low levels of corruption.
“Our independent and politically neutral public service is a big part of that. Yes they can be frustrating at times but they are there for good reason – to ensure taxpayers’ money isn’t wasted and everyone is treated fairly.
“Ms Ardern should defend the integrity of our political institutions and tell Mr Jones to pull his head in.
“If Mr Jones really wants to be the regions’ champion he should fight harder to resist the damage his Government is doing to the regions – such as unilaterally lopping off important industries like exploration for oil and gas, pulling back on large scale irrigation, withdrawing funding for state highways to the regions, adding more costs on to the tourism industry, putting more barriers in the way of foreign investment… the list goes on.
“But, that’s clearly too hard. So he’s trying to cover it up by having a whack at the public service instead.”