The Prime Minister is desperate to show a united Government after the shambles of the past few weeks but it will take more than a reheated speech to convince Kiwis her dysfunctional coalition is up to the job, National Party leader Simon Bridges says.
“It is easy to give a rah-rah speech. What is in question is her judgment, her ability to lead a competent Government and whether her administration has a plan for dealing with the real issues facing New Zealand.
“They think that a photo op 10 months in is a substitute for a plan and an ability to improve the lives of New Zealanders. It’s not. They’re adrift while they wait for their 170 working groups to report back with instructions and New Zealand is stalling while we wait.
“Business confidence is tumbling, the economy is losing momentum and the Government is driving up the cost of living, which is hurting families.
“This was a lost opportunity for Ms Ardern to admit her mistakes, acknowledge the cracks in her coalition and focus on policies that will genuinely benefit New Zealand. Instead we’ve been given a show designed to distract from her weak leadership and lack of new ideas.
“It is barely 10 months since the Speech from the Throne, which along with the coalition agreements was meant to be the riding instructions for this Government. They weren't prepared for Government and are barely any further ahead now than they were a year ago.
“Today's speech is like a TED Talk and shows a Trump-like attempt to avoid tough questions with a stage-managed pep rally and carefully vetted questions. This is a Government in damage control trying desperately to get itself together.
“They’re spending more time on this than doing anything to improve the lives of New Zealanders. They’re governing for the coalition, not for the country. New Zealanders expect and deserve better than what this Labour-led Government is giving them.”
National is fighting to stop this Government dumping employment law that underpins New Zealand’s growth and allows flexible, modern workplaces that can compete in the fast-changing global economy, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The Government has shown complete contempt for businesses both large and small by ignoring all of their submissions on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill.
“Instead of helping business grow and create more jobs, the Government wants to take us backwards in a return to 1970s-style adversarial union activity that would ultimately hurt all New Zealanders.
“National believes New Zealand’s competitive advantages are worth fighting for and our employment law plays a big part. The Government’s ideologically driven changes add to business costs, hurt productivity, stifle innovation and do nothing to improve the position of workers.
“Today National has lodged Supplementary Order Papers on this Bill seeking improvements that help both employers and employees.”
National’s proposed changes will:
- keep 90-day trials for all businesses
- allow businesses to opt out of collective contracts and multi-employer collective agreements (MECAs)
- ensure union officials have to get permission to enter a workplace
- ensure businesses don’t have to pay union delegates for union tasks during paid hours.
“National has signalled its opposition to the Bill with a Minority Report but we must push much harder to stop this Government making one of its biggest economic mistakes. We can’t allow it to destabilise New Zealand’s industrial relations landscape.
“This is also an opportunity for NZ First to do what is right for New Zealand and support our efforts to stop these reckless changes. They know a good industrial relations framework and a flexible labour market are critical to a strong and growing economy, and are vital for the provinces.
“National cares about both employees and employers. This Bill does nothing to achieve that outcome and will have a negative impact on jobs, on costs and the economy. Our changes would address that.”
Clare Curran’s resignation has done real damage to the credibility of both the Prime Minister and the Government and leaves Jacinda Ardern with significant explaining to do, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The Prime Minister has badly mishandled the Clare Curran saga and needs to explain what she will do to restore confidence in her Government and reassure New Zealanders that this resignation is not an attempt to cover up further wrongdoing.
“Ms Curran has spent months undermining the faith of New Zealanders in the Government and the Prime Minister has let that happen - twice.
“Jacinda Ardern had two chances to show leadership and sack Ms Curran – when she first misled New Zealanders over secret meetings and then when she did it again recently.
“The Prime Minister also needs to explain whether the official emails sent by Ms Curran from her private Gmail account will still be released.
“Ms Curran’s resignation does not change the fact this is official information and there is genuine public interest about the type of work carried out on an unsecure, private email account by a minister.
“Is there information contained in these emails which has forced the resignation of Ms Curran?
“The Prime Minister also needs to explain why she misled New Zealanders this morning by saying Ms Curran’s job was safe when Ms Curran says she resigned last night.
“This whole saga has seriously damaged the credibility of both the Prime Minister and the Government.
“The Prime Minister’s judgement has been called into question and she still has real questions to answer.”
National Leader Simon Bridges today launched National’s 2020 election policy development process, beginning with the ‘Have your say’ listening campaign for small businesses.
“We want to hear from New Zealanders about what matters to them and their ideas for this country’s future,” Mr Bridges says.
“Today I’m launching our process to develop policies for the 2020 election. This is about listening because New Zealanders care about this country and they know what works for them. We’ll use that to develop discussion documents next year, and to put forward final policies in 2020.
“We’re beginning with small businesses, the engine room of the economy. They create $80 billion of wealth each year and employ some 600,000 Kiwis. This Government is not listening to them but National will.
“National wants to hear about the biggest issues affecting them and their growth, what Government policies they’re most concerned about and the laws and regulations that could be improved. That’s never been more important than it is now.
“Two years ago New Zealand had the second-highest business confidence in the developed world. Now we’ve plummeted to fourth-to-last on the back of this Government’s anti-growth policies such as union-friendly labour law reform.
“I’ve already heard from frustrated small business owners who feel the Government is out of touch and lacks real-world experience. They don’t know about the stresses and strains of working in and on a business while trying to keep on top of paperwork and grow.
“National believes they deserve better. Every large company in New Zealand began as a small business. The world-beaters of tomorrow are hidden among the ranks of our hard-working small businesses today. We need the right policies to help them thrive.
“Small businesses deserve to be heard, so we’ve launched a portal, national.org.nz/haveyoursay, to give them an easy way to share their views. National MPs will also be out in their regions talking directly to business owners.
“We’re doing the work now because we don’t want to be like the current Government, which didn’t do the work in Opposition and has now set up more than 160 reviews and working groups costing $170 million so far to figure out what to do. That was lazy and that uncertainty is what’s behind plummeting business confidence.
“Together we can develop a plan to deliver on the things that are important to New Zealanders. We’ll do that work and we’ll be ready with plans and proposals in 2020.”
Today’s ANZ business confidence survey shows a net 50 percent of businesses are pessimistic about the economy and sentiment has plummeted even further since the Prime Minister returned to office, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Business confidence has slumped further to levels not seen since the global financial crisis 10 years ago. This time the crisis is of the Government’s own making and the return to duty of the Prime Minister a month ago has only made it worse.
“The Government’s desperate charm offensive can’t conceal policies that are slowing growth, driving up the cost of living, deterring investment and hurting job creation. They’re taxing more only to waste taxpayer money.
“Investment intentions in the ANZ Business Outlook, which ANZ itself says are a very good directional signal for GDP growth, have turned negative and are at the lowest level since 2009.
“ANZ says companies have real concerns about industrial relations policy, minimum wage hikes and rising costs, and their ability to pass on costs and maintain profitability, which stayed negative.
“Confidence worsened in all sectors apart from construction, which is still at negative 50 points. And ANZ says the issues in the construction sector are starting to cause stress in other industries.
“These surveys show more than just sentiment. The intentions of businesses have real impacts on New Zealanders.
“NZIER forecasts this week showed the average New Zealander will be $1600 worse off by 2022 compared to the same forecasts made just three months ago.
“The Government’s economic management is in disarray. The Prime Minister’s words are contradicted by NZ First. Their only strategy is to throw every problem to a working group.
“National believes in sensible, consistent economic policies that encourage businesses to grow. We want New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn. Instead we have a Government that appears determined to take New Zealand backwards.”
As a consequence of the Government’s anti-growth policies NZIER is now predicting it will not meet its own budget responsibility rule of keeping core Crown debt below 20 per cent of GDP by 2022, says Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges.
“Grant Robertson has tied his economic credibility to his ability to reduce debt to below 20 per cent of GDP by 2022. Today’s NZIER quarterly predictions forecast the target will be missed by $2 billion.
“And this doesn’t even take into account the extra $6 billion in Crown Entity debt the Minister has hidden off the balance sheet in the last Budget.
“The Government has been spending up large and hoping the next rainy day doesn’t happen under its watch – but its own anti-growth policies are putting a handbrake on the economy and causing debt forecasts to rise.
“They’re not treating taxpayers’ money with the respect it deserves - instead throwing billions at a slush fund for New Zealand First, foreign diplomats and a tertiary fees policy that isn’t delivering any extra students.
“NZIER have also signalled there are risks that debt will blow-out even further – highlighting increased downside risks to the economy.
“Bad economic policies and uncertainty for businesses are quickly eroding previously hard-earned gains. The consequences of this Government’s economic mismanagement are going to be felt for many years to come.”
The message from economists is loud and clear: the Government’s bad economic policies mean New Zealanders will be thousands of dollars a year worse off, says National Party Leader Simon Bridges.
“In the last three months alone NZIER has revised down their GDP growth forecasts which means every man, woman and child will be $1600 a year worse off on average by 2022. That is $6400 for a family of four.
“NZIER are clear that the decline in the economic outlook isn’t just sentiment. Profitability has deteriorated and businesses’ own activity, a measure closely correlated with GDP growth, has weakened. There are real implications for businesses, workers and New Zealanders trying to get ahead.
“The reason GDP growth is now faltering is because this Government has imposed a wide range of policies that are bad for growth. They have imposed more taxes, shut off foreign investment, significantly increased labour and compliance costs, banned oil and gas exploration and wasted billions on low-quality spending.
“And what was the Prime Minister’s solution this morning: another working group. The Government needs to understand that lower growth has real consequences for New Zealand families. Working groups do not drive economic growth, good policies and hardworking New Zealanders do.
“So the goal is simple. We must grow the economy if we want New Zealanders to be better off. A growing economy means more jobs, higher incomes and more revenue to pay for the things we need.
“We need to be pro-growth as that is the only way we can improve our standard of living. National wants New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn. Higher taxes, more regulation, compliance costs and a rising cost of living do nothing to help families get ahead.
The bill for the Government’s constant outsourcing of its job to 152 working groups and reviews has reached $170 million so far, with a third still to be costed, National Leader Simon Bridges says.
“During the election the Government ramped up pay expectations with nurses, teachers and public servants and now it’s failing to deliver. How can it tell teachers there’s no more money when figures released to the Opposition confirm it’s spending at least $170 million on asking people to give them the ideas they should have had before taking office?
“The refusal to make sensible spending choices has led to thousands of parents and caregivers scrambling for childcare during the teacher strikes and the responsibility for that lies squarely at the feet of this Government and the choices they’re making.”
What’s worse is the Government doesn’t know the cost of over a third of the 152 working groups and reviews announced to date.
“This is a Government caught badly unprepared and New Zealanders are now paying an exorbitant price. And now we know Ministers are ordering reviews and setting up groups without even knowing what they will cost, while the reviews are coming back with recommendations for more reviews.
“The Government doesn’t know the cost of its summit to help Taranaki undertake a ‘just transition’ after the Prime Minister gutted the local oil and gas sector without warning. David Clark’s review of the health system comes without a price tag, Kelvin Davis has no ideas about his flagship Freedom Camping group, and Clare Curran hasn’t worked out the cost of her public media funding commission, which is tasked with figuring out how to distribute funding.
“Who knows how much the taxpayer will be forking out for this by the end? With a review coming every two days, these costs could really blow out over the next two years.
“The only thing we know for certain is that the Labour-NZ First Coalition is squandering New Zealand’s real economic success and creating uncertainty. Business confidence has plummeted, economic growth forecasts have slumped, the cost of living is on the rise, unemployment is up and job creation has more than halved.
“That’s not good enough and we won’t make the same mistake. We’re doing the work now to ensure a National Government I lead will be ready for office and won’t be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on asking other people what to do.”
The Government’s decision to impose a plastic bag ban while neglecting to address plummeting business confidence and slowing economic growth shows it’s focused on low-hanging fruit that won’t make any real difference, National Leader Simon Bridges says.
“National wants to see an end to plastic bags too but both consumers and businesses were phasing them out voluntarily already and the Government’s failed to explain why a total ban is now needed within a year.
“Measures introduced by the previous Government alongside industry would already have seen a more than 75 per cent reduction in plastic bag use without new regulations and higher costs.
“Kiwis were reducing their plastic usage because it’s the right thing to do. They didn’t need to be told what to do by a Government increasingly looking like it thinks it knows best.
“Now it’s done though the Prime Minister should turn her attention to fixing the very real concerns around plummeting business confidence and our slowing economy because she has done nothing to ease those concerns or recognise the impact her Government’s anti-growth policies are having.
“Those policies are already costing Kiwi families who are trying to get ahead. New petrol taxes, union friendly labour law changes and rent increases have New Zealanders worried.
“And businesses are very concerned, meaning fewer jobs and opportunities for New Zealanders but the Government which has established 140-odd working groups to tell it what to do is refusing to listen.
“Nothing the Prime Minister has done this week will help right these real concerns and she and her Government need to get their priorities straight.”
The Government’s reckless and low-growth approach to running the economy is yet again on display with business confidence dropping to levels not seen since the global financial crisis, says Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges.
“When it seemed as though business confidence could go no lower, the latest ANZ business confidence survey has business confidence dropping another six points taking it to their lowest levels in 10 years. Firms’ views on their own activity are also down a further 5 points for the month.
“Businesses are becoming increasingly unlikely to hire more workers or increase wages, meaning fewer opportunities - meaning Kiwi families are less likely to get ahead.
“The fact that these numbers are at their worst levels in 10 years show just how worried businesses are and the Government must take responsibility as there is no other driver of this change.
“It is their low-growth policies such as union-friendly industrial relations reforms, restrictions on overseas investment, immigration uncertainty, axing oil and gas exploration and increasing costs on small businesses which have all been bad for business sentiment and the economy.
“Today’s ANZ numbers are on top of figures showing New Zealand had already fallen to second lowest in the OECD’s business confidence index after being the second highest in 2016 – a drop of 33 places. That’s a real concern.
“This is in comparison to Australia where there was a new job advertised in its mining, resources and energy sector every six minutes. While Australia is expanding the Government here in New Zealand is making it more and more difficult for businesses to grow and invest and we are going to find it harder to compete.
“The Prime Minister has made it her personal mission to turn around tanking business confidence. She needs to do it urgently by recognising her Government’s low-growth policies are causing real concern and slowing New Zealand down and she needs to put a stop to it.”