Confirmation from Immigration New Zealand that its review into Czech drug-smuggler Karel Sroubek’s residency has been delayed is yet another sign of incompetence from the Labour-led Government, National Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Embattled Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said this review would be done within three weeks. He then said he expected it to be sooner than that.
“This was backed up by the Prime Minister who said ‘Neither of us are satisfied with the long timeline around going back and looking at what's happened in this case…I'm hoping and expecting we will get a response very, very soon’.
“When Winston Peters was Acting Prime Minister he said the report would be made ‘within a number of days.’
“Now we have learned that Sroubek and his lawyers have been given an extension to respond. That means there’s no way the review can be done within three weeks.
“Jacinda Ardern said we shouldn’t judge the Government on how it’s handled the affair so far, rather how it fixes up the mess. There are no signs of this mess being fixed. It has gone from bad to worse to beyond belief.
“There are still serious questions which need to be answered, such as - who made representations in this case and did they influence the decision making of the Minister? Why is the Prime Minister standing by Iain Lees-Galloway and his decision?
“There are still so many unanswered questions and no sign of New Zealanders getting any answers.”
The Prime Minister now needs to sack Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway over his careless decision to allow a drug dealing gang associate to remain in New Zealand without even reading all the information available to him, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Either Mr Lees-Galloway has misled the Prime Minister or she’s misled New Zealanders.
“The Immigration Minister has claimed he carefully considered all the relevant information before allowing Karel Sroubek to stay in New Zealand.
“The Prime Minister has defended that decision for the past two weeks, telling New Zealanders it was a ‘difficult decision’ but that she had been assured by Mr Lees-Galloway he had given it ‘careful consideration’.
“We now know he hadn’t.
“After two weeks Mr Lees-Galloway has now admitted he didn’t read the full file, didn’t consider all the relevant information and that he made a decision in less than an hour.
“That’s not careful consideration of what was a dangerous decision and it is not acceptable due diligence from a senior Cabinet Minister.
“Mr Lees-Galloway’s credibility is now shot. The Prime Minister cannot expect the public to have confidence in any of his decisions given his careless approach to Mr Sroubek’s residency.
“The Prime Minister now has no choice but to sack Mr Lees-Galloway from Cabinet immediately.”
Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s decision to strip funding from the Tauranga to Hamilton Expressway Extension project will put a dampener on the long-term economic growth in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions, local MPs for Tauranga, Taupo and Hamilton East Simon Bridges, Louise Upston and David Bennett say.
“Waikato is the fourth largest regional economy in New Zealand, and its central location makes it a nationally significant infrastructure corridor. Strengthening the link between Tauranga and Hamilton is fundamental to economic growth in the region,” Mr Bridges says.
“Over time greater freight volumes will use the road as the preferred route to and from other economic centres and the Port of Tauranga. Further investment in this stretch of road will provide economic benefits to the regions and improve safety.
“The Expressway connects our capital of commerce, Auckland, with one of our core agricultural areas, the horticulture in the Bay of Plenty and the Port in Tauranga.”
“The extension of the expressway builds on the early success and benefits the Waikato Expressway is already delivering, such as reduced congestion and travel times, as well as a safer commute,” Ms Upston says.
“The previous National Government approved a four-lane extension for the State Highway 1 Piarere turnoff, a black spot for crashes between Cambridge and Tirau.
“The planning and acquisition phase of the Cambridge to Piarere stretch is already underway. It would be ridiculous for all of this work to be wasted if the Government completely scraps this project.”
“Waikato’s central location in the upper North Island makes it a nationally significant infrastructure corridor, which is why the previous National Government announced the Waikato Expressway,” Mr Bennett says.
"The current Government hasn’t thought through its plan. The Extension is vital as it divides the traffic from Rotorua to Tauranga. There is not much good having a road that stops at Cambridge when the traffic divides at Piarere.
“This is another example of a Government prepared to strip investment out of the regions in favour of a pet Tram project in Auckland. National had a carefully balanced plan that prioritised our regions was delivering on key infrastructure for all of New Zealand.”
There are serious questions that the Immigration Ministers needs to answers after confirmation today he has allowed a dangerous criminal to stay in New Zealand without fully considering the facts, National’s Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Iain Lees-Galloway admitted in Parliament today that hadn’t considered all of the relevant information about the Karel Sroubek case before making the decision to allow a dangerous, gang affiliated criminal to remain in New Zealand.
“Mr Lees-Galloway is not a box ticker, he needs to be capable of making important and dispassionate decisions which are in the best interests of New Zealanders.
“He’s now trying to blame his officials. It was up to him to ask the hard questions. It’s called ‘Minister’s discretion’, not ‘officials discretion’.
“He should have asked more questions, done his own due-diligence and taken the decision to Cabinet.
“Instead, he just took the case at face value, his decision was not in the public interest and it made New Zealanders less safe.
“The Prime Minister needs to front up to the fact that her Government has badly let New Zealanders down and she has no choice but to fire her Immigration Minister.”
Tomorrow marks a year since the Labour-Led Government took office, causing a freefall in business confidence, a surge in industrial action and a massive increase in the cost of living, National’s Leader Simon Bridges says.
“In the past year the National Opposition has forced the Prime Minister to back down on rolling out more regional fuel taxes, fought and won a campaign to keep many regional rescue helicopter services, developed a well-supported approach to medical marijuana,
cracked down on the supply of synthetic drugs, kept New Zealanders safe by forcing the Government to give up on abolishing three strikes and offered bipartisan support for climate change and child poverty.
“Under this Government the economy is slowing, the cost of living is now rising faster than wages, petrol has increased to record highs because this Government keeps piling on new taxes, rents are increasing because of ill-thought out housing policies, the number of people on the benefit has increased by 9,000 and job creation has plummeted from 10,000 a month to 4,000.
“The Government is also making bad decisions which have a real impact on New Zealanders. It banned oil and gas exploration without consultation because it said this would help lower carbon emissions. That’s in spite of the official advice saying it might lead to an increase, could drive up electricity prices and could cost the economy billions.
“We’re seeing industrial action on a scale not seen in New Zealand for decades, with tens of thousands of workers striking, business confidence has sunk to levels not seen since the GFC and net migration is climbing as more New Zealanders leave in search of opportunities elsewhere.
“The Government has established 180 working groups and reviews, costing up to $250 million, because it came to office so unprepared and that is leading to real uncertainty, and it’s introduced a number of new taxes, making it harder for New Zealanders to get ahead.
“It also committed $2.8 billion to make tertiary education free for first year students but attracted no new students as a result, and has broken a number of election promises. National is a strong opposition and remains committed to holding this Government to account.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has welcomed the Prime Minister’s forced backdown on her regional fuel taxes, and called on her to overturn her excise increases and remove the regional fuel tax imposed on Aucklanders.
“After pressure from the National Party over her Government’s decision to impose more and more new taxes on record petrol prices the Prime Minister has today finally backed down and ruled out rolling the regional fuel tax out beyond Auckland while she is Prime Minister.
“This is in spite of her Government introducing legislation which would have enabled the 11.5 cent per litre regional fuel tax to be rolled out around the country from 2021. It has already been imposed on Aucklanders.
“Fourteen other councils had already started discussions with the Government saying they wanted the tax and will be surprised to hear about the Prime Minister’s backdown today.
“Her Transport Minister was also be surprised at his Prime Minister’s unilateral decision. This was forced policy made up on the hoof by a Prime Minister under pressure over her disregard for the costs her Government is imposing on New Zealanders.
“New Zealanders will be relieved. These taxes on top of record petrol prices are hitting them hard and pricing them out of their cars yet this Government was blindly forging ahead with new taxes because it can’t get its spending under control.
“The Prime Minister needs to go further, do the right thing and throw her numerous new taxes out completely. She should remove the regional fuel tax from Auckland as well as her first four cent national excise tax increase, and pledge not to impose any more new taxes.”
National Leader Simon Bridges has today launched the ‘Have Your Say’ listening campaign for Rural New Zealand as the next step in National’s 2020 election policy development process.
“We know farmers and growers contribute $42 billion a year in exports that sees 350,000 people employed in the sector, and New Zealand’s success depends on it. This success is underpinned by sustainable business practices that continue to enhance the environment for our children.
“We want to make sure rural communities can access top-quality public services and infrastructure like broadband, rural policing, education and health services.
“Having the right policies in place to help rural communities thrive is vitally important. Therefore we are keen to hear from the grassroots on issues that may evolve into policies to turbocharge rural and provincial New Zealand.
“We’re making sure we do the work in Opposition so we’ll have the plans and policies in place should we earn the right to govern again in 2020. The current Government didn’t do its homework and it shows with over 180 working groups, potential new taxes, and other rushed policies creating huge uncertainty.
“While sector returns still look solid, primary sector business confidence has plummeted on the back of worries about Government policies like employment law reforms, climate change and environmental regulations, petrol taxes, the slowdown of overseas investment, and a wide-ranging review of the dairy industry.
“Rural New Zealanders deserve to be heard, so we’ve launched an online portal to give them an easy way to share their views. National MPs will also be out in their regions talking directly to rural New Zealanders.
“National holds every rural seat in Parliament except one, and we’re proud to represent rural New Zealand. Together we can develop a plan to deliver on the things that are important to rural communities. We’ll do that work, and we’ll be ready with plans and proposals in 2020.”
Earlier today the National Party Caucus voted unanimously to expel Jami-Lee Ross.
This was the strongest possible action the Caucus can take and reflects the seriousness of the issues and the fact we are united and focused on the interests of New Zealanders.
It is clear Jami-Lee Ross was not.
We are not going to tolerate the kind of lies and disloyalty we’ve seen from Jami-Lee Ross who has put his own interests above the National Party and those of New Zealanders.
The lies, the leaks and other allegations about his conduct are unacceptable.
I also entirely reject the allegations Jami-Lee has made around the handling of political donations.
I invite Jami-Lee Ross to take these matters to the Police and I invite the Police to investigate them fully and promptly. They will find the allegations are baseless.
We as a caucus are going to now draw a line under this. We will be resolutely strong and focused on the things that matter to New Zealanders.
Earlier today I received the independent report from PwC on their investigation into the recent leak of the National Party’s travel expenses.
The report states that the evidence identified points to Jami Lee Ross as being the person who sent the anonymous text message.
I am releasing the report today.
John Billington QC has independently assessed the investigation report. It is his opinion that on the balance of probabilities the evidence establishes that Jami-Lee Ross was the person who leaked the expenses and the sender of the text message.
I accept both the investigation report and the opinion of Mr Billington.
Earlier today I visited Jami-Lee Ross with Paula Bennett and explained to him the report and the opinion of Mr Billington and gave him an opportunity to respond. I was not satisfied with his explanation.
I also discussed with Jami-Lee other matters concerning his conduct that have come to my attention and suggest, together with the leak, a pattern.
I informed Jami-Lee that tomorrow the investigation report and Mr Billington’s opinion will be presented at a meeting of the National Party Caucus along with the other matters.
The Caucus will be asked to consider all relevant matters, including his membership of the Caucus.
Finally, you will recall Jami-Lee recently took leave from Parliament given personal health issues.
This action today is completely separate. I did not know what the investigation report would contain when those matters were addressed in recent weeks.
Today I have taken steps to ensure that Jami-Lee has the necessary support around him at this time.
The step that I have taken today is not made lightly. I am balancing the health issues with the considerable public interest in the outcome of the investigation.
The Prime Minister has got her fuel tax numbers badly wrong, showing she doesn’t even know how much her Government’s additional taxes are costing New Zealanders, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“When trying to defend the impact of her Government’s taxes on rising petrol prices, the Prime Minister claimed that additional taxes accounted for only 6.8 cents per litre of the rise in petrol prices in the past year. This is false.
“Staggeringly, this figure left out both the Government’s excise tax increase of 4 cents per litre and the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax of 11.5 cents per litre. In fact, the 6.8 cents the Prime Minister referred to only includes GST and an ETS change.
“The actual increase in taxes is over 10 cents per litre outside Auckland and more than 20 cents in Auckland – almost three times as much as the Prime Minister claimed.
“The increase in petrol taxes under this Government is costing New Zealand families $200 a year on average – and $324 a year for Auckland households.
“How can the Prime Minister claim to understand the impact her policies are having on New Zealanders when she doesn’t have her numbers right?
“The Prime Minister has been trying to blame fuel companies but a key driver of petrol prices is her Government’s higher taxes.
“This isn’t the first time she’s got it so wrong – just a few weeks ago it was GDP and now fuel taxes.
“It’s easy for the Prime Minister to make good on her comments and to provide some relief to New Zealanders - she just needs to cancel the excise tax and the regional fuel tax she conveniently left out of her figures.”