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.”
A petition to repeal the Government’s new fuel taxes and relieve some of the financial pressure being imposed on hard working Kiwi families paying record prices at the pump has been launched today, National Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The average New Zealand household is now paying $200 a year more in petrol taxes than this time last year and in Auckland that figure is $324.
“That’s too high and the costs are only going to increase as fuel prices climb and the Government imposes new taxes.
“The worst is yet to come with two more excise tax hikes planned in the next two years. Councils right around New Zealand are already asking for Auckland’s regional fuel tax to be made available nationwide and crude oil prices are expected to continue to rise.
“Ordinary hard working Kiwi families don’t need the worry of figuring out how they’re going to drive to school or get to the supermarket. But this Government is pricing them out of their cars.
“That’s why National has launched a petition calling for the Government to axe these new fuel taxes.
“The Government should provide immediate relief to New Zealanders by cancelling the new fuel taxes it’s imposed and putting a stop to its plans to add more.
“National is committed to holding this Government to account and making sure New Zealanders get to keep more of what they earn to help them get ahead.”
Figures released to National show the cost of the Government’s 182 reviews and working groups will likely reach more than $250 million, showing that New Zealanders are paying the price for the Government’s lack of a plan, Simon Bridges says.
“It beggars belief that the taxpayer could be stumping up a quarter of a billion dollars simply because this Government doesn’t have any of its own ideas.
“What’s worse is that it is raising taxes of hard-working New Zealanders at the same time it is blindly wasting hundreds of millions on reviews, consultants, advisors and spin doctors. Meanwhile it’s saying there’s no more money for teachers, cochlear implants, and universal cheap GP visits.
“Government officials have released to National the costs of half of the 182 working groups and reviews so far, revealing an eye-watering average cost of $1.9 million per review.
“The Government has been unwilling or unable to provide costings for a further 67 reviews, but even at a conservative estimate of $1 million each the total cost reaches over $250 million.
“That’s an appalling approach to spending taxpayer money.
“And it could get worse – a higher cost per review, or further blow-outs like the Justice Summit which ended up costing more than twice as much as expected, could see the total cost increase to well over $300 million.
“This isn’t good enough at a time when the Government is continuing to impose more taxes on New Zealand rather than get its spending under control.
“This Government has no respect for the careful spending of the billions of dollars earned by taxpayers. We won’t take taxpayers for granted and make the same mistakes.
“We’ll enter Government in 2020 with our ideas already formulated, our policies in place and legislation ready to go.”
A $5.5 billion operating surplus shows the Government should not be imposing more taxes on New Zealanders already facing higher living costs, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The Government has piled on taxes since the election. The extra fuel taxes alone are pushing up the price of petrol for Kiwi motorists by hundreds of dollars a year. It needs to reverse these extra costs.
“This is a Government that cancelled National’s $1000 tax cuts for hardworking New Zealanders on the average wage so that it could spend more. This result shows that was the wrong choice.
“The reason the Government has more money is because New Zealanders have less.
“New Zealanders can’t afford this raid on their back pockets all so the Government can waste their hard earned money on wasteful and untargeted spending.
“It is good to see net debt falling. That result is a testament to National’s solid management of the books for the past nine years. Indeed the result would be even better if the Government hadn’t wasted money on poor spending decisions like the tertiary fees free policy.
“We need to make sure the Government doesn’t use this as an excuse for further poor spending. It’s already shown its only ideas are to tax and spend – it doesn’t have proper regard for Kiwi taxpayers’ hard-earned money.”
The Government should axe its fuel tax increases to provide immediate relief to motorists, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Instead, the Prime Minister’s response to record high fuel prices is to announce yet another inquiry.
“She’s saying consumers are being ‘fleeced’ while her Government is driving up fuel prices and taking hundreds of dollars from Kiwi households through higher taxes on fuel.
“The inquiry will take months and any resulting changes could be years away. Meanwhile New Zealanders are paying record prices for petrol and the Government is collecting hundreds of millions of extra tax from them.
“Unlike petrol, talk is cheap. And the Government is a big part of the reason why petrol prices are so high.
“The importer margin, the profit petrol companies make on every litre of fuel sold and which the Prime Minister wants more information on, is 31 cents per litre and around the same as it was last year. The amount the Government makes is $1.25 – and that keeps increasing.
“The average New Zealand household is now paying $200 a year more in petrol taxes than this time last year, with Auckland families paying $324 extra as a result of higher petrol prices and this Government’s decision to hike fuel taxes. It’s pricing Kiwis out of their cars.
“There are a number of other reasons behind record petrol prices and National supports another look at the practices of fuel companies, something we also looked at in Government, but the Government should also be looking in the mirror.
“While the Government passes new legislation and waits for yet another report it should provide immediate relief to motorists by putting a stop to its relentless imposition of new taxes.”
The average New Zealand household is now paying $200 a year more in petrol taxes than this time last year, with Auckland families paying $324 extra as a result of higher petrol prices and this Government’s decision to hike fuel taxes, National Leader Simon Bridges says.
Every time a New Zealander puts $1 of petrol in their vehicle, 53 cents of that is going straight into the Government’s coffers, and the Government’s share and the costs faced by Kiwis are only going to increase as fuel prices climb and the Government imposes new taxes.
“Since the election, petrol prices have increased by 42 cents a litre on average to record highs. That includes this month’s 3.5 cent hike in excise, netting the Government about $123 million a year in extra revenue, plus the GST on the fuel price increase which amounts to $220 million a year at current prices – all additional costs paid by New Zealanders.
“Auckland Council is also now collecting an extra $70 million a year from Auckland families as a result of its regional fuel tax, enabled by the Government.
“With two more excise tax hikes to come in the next two years, councils right around New Zealand already asking for the regional fuel tax to be rolled out nationwide and crude oil prices expected to continue to rise the Government is going to continue to take more and more money from the back pockets of New Zealanders.
“This Government fails to understand that petrol is typically a fixed cost for families and businesses. It is the cost of getting kids to school and groceries home from the supermarket. It is the cost of getting goods and services to your customers.
“This Government needs to realise it can’t keep heaping costs on New Zealand families, driving up the cost of living and making it harder to get ahead.
“Rather than imposing more taxes it needs to get its own spending under control and it could start with finding a more cost effective solution to the billions of dollars it wants to spend on Auckland’s trams.
“National understands we need to invest in infrastructure but we don’t need to keep imposing higher costs on New Zealanders to do it.”
In recent days I have been talking with Jami-Lee Ross.
He has asked for some time away from Parliament to deal with some personal health issues and I have granted him that.
Jami-Lee will be stepping back from his portfolio responsibilities and from the Opposition front bench.
His Transport portfolio will be picked up by Paul Goldsmith and his Infrastructure responsibilities by Judith Collins. Paul Goldsmith’s Revenue portfolio will be picked up by Andrew Bayly.
I will not be making any further comment on the nature of the health issues given this is a private matter but I can confirm this decision is unrelated to the ongoing leak investigation.