The Government’s obsession with working groups has at least a $114 million price tag but the real cost comes in the form of lost opportunities, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The cost so far of less than half of the Government’s 122 working groups and reviews is over $114 million which says a lot about the Ardern-Peters Government’s priorities.
“While staffers in the Prime Minister’s office get plum roles reviewing the health system, designated mental health and Māori development funding have been cut by $100 million.
“While former Labour Ministers are being paid big bucks to run panels, children’s camps in Roxburgh are being shut down.
“And while Clare Curran sets up an advisory group to recommend the establishment of a commission to recommend distribution of public media funding, education spending promises are being broken by the millions.
“What’s worse is the Government doesn’t even know the costs of at least 45 of its reviews, with Treasury classifying the various working groups as a specific fiscal risk.
“The Government needs to shelve its reviews and get its priorities straight – the $114 million could hire 2,100 extra teachers or pay for an extra 20,000 elective surgeries. Instead, the Government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars for others to do the work for it.
“Its underwhelming Budget also shows what we’ve known for a while – Labour, NZ First and the Greens can’t figure out their priorities, weren’t ready to govern and are out of their depth.
“Whether it’s the broken promise on cheaper GP visits for all New Zealanders, the broken promise on affordable KiwiBuild housing, or the broken promise on school donations, the message is clear: New Zealanders cannot rely on Labour to deliver.
“National won’t repeat Labour’s mistakes. We’re working hard in the interests of Kiwis and we’ll be ready to implement our plans and policies if we earn the right to govern again in 2020.”
The Government’s naïve and muddled decision-making is hurting business and investment confidence across the economy, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Officials’ advice revealed today that banning offshore oil and gas exploration would have a ‘chilling effect’ on investment in that sector was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bad decision-making.
“While the Finance Minister trumpets economic conditions gifted to him by a competent and careful Government, New Zealand’s changed country risk profile just eight months into this Government means investment in productive sectors is essentially on negative watch.
“This Government’s reckless pursuit of ideology over common sense, such as today’s announcement of an intention to bring in so-called Fair Pay Agreements – which really signals a return to National Awards – is having a marked effect on business confidence.
“Week after week Grant Robertson cherry-picks the narrow elements of each business confidence survey he thinks he can positively spin, despite the headline feedback being clearly negative and New Zealand’s reputation as a good place to do business suffering.
“It’s not only issues like the short-sighted nature of the Government’s decision on offshore exploration, but also the callous lack of regard for due process in making it.
“In that case we’ve seen ideology and cheap headlines trump common sense in a move that won’t lessen global emissions – ironically it will probably make them worse – while a similar lack of thought on restricting residential land to foreign investors, regardless of the value their wider investments would have brought to New Zealand, is also hurting our economy.
“Property developers with links offshore can’t fund new subdivisions and apartments lest they get caught by the impending Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, meaning first-home buyers are getting stiffed by a Government that promised them salvation.
“Meanwhile only risk-takers with very deep pockets will be investing in primary industries with a myriad uncertainty over water taxes, stock numbers and a Government that doesn’t support large scale water storage.
“And all the while the trades unions rub their hands with anticipation at the prospect of cross-sector collective bargaining, which if implemented will entrench workplace disruption and rob our exporters of their competitive edge.
“Returning to 1970s-style union-dominated collective bargaining will hurt the 82 per cent of workers who aren’t union members by reducing their employment flexibility and will add unnecessary costs to their employers.
“Only a National-led Government which understands the importance of stability, a productive economy and enhancing rather than harming our international relationships can put New Zealand back on the right track.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has congratulated Sir Bill English on being honoured for his immense contribution to New Zealand over a 27-year career.
“Sir Bill steered New Zealand through very tough times and oversaw one of the fastest-growing economies in the developed world, to the envy of governments across the globe.
“As Finance Minister, Sir Bill guided New Zealand from heavy deficits to get us back into surplus, all while contending with the GFC and the Canterbury earthquakes.
“This achievement cannot be underestimated – it is what has given the previous and current governments the opportunities to make a positive difference to the lives of New Zealanders.
“He is recognised as one of the greatest finance ministers in New Zealand, and indeed the world. But more than that, Sir Bill has been dedicated to helping the most vulnerable New Zealanders to live better lives.
“After getting the books in good shape, he was able to increase benefits in real terms for the first time in 40 years.
“Sir Bill also pioneered the groundbreaking Social Investment approach, which gives us the greatest opportunity in a generation to transform the lives of New Zealanders.
“He devoted almost three decades to serving New Zealand in Parliament and today’s honour recognises not only his service to our country, but the support his wife Mary provided him over that time.
“Sir Bill would be the first to acknowledge the hundreds of other exceptional New Zealanders who have been recognised for their contributions today. I also extend my warm congratulations to each of them and thank them for their service to New Zealand.”
The Ardern-Peters Government needs to come clean about its secret plans to make it easier for criminals to get out of prison and harder for them to get there in the first place, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“New Zealanders have a right to be concerned about the Government’s plans to go soft on crime. It is keeping these plans secret because it knows New Zealanders won’t like it.
“And there’s good reason not to like it – it will mean more serious, violent criminals out on our streets, all so that the Government can reach its arbitrary target of reducing prison numbers by a third.
“The reality is it’s very hard to go to prison. No one is there for stealing a Moro bar or even for smoking a joint. A person has to have committed a very serious crime, like serious violence, sexual offending and Class A commercial drug dealing.
“These are the people that the Ardern-Peters Government will be letting loose on our communities if it goes ahead with softening our bail, parole and sentencing laws.
“At the same time, it wants to increase police numbers which usually means more criminals being caught and sent to prison. But the Government will be moving police towards what it calls a ‘compassionate’ approach – which basically means ‘catch and release’.
“There’s no point letting more police in through the front door if you’re just going to let more criminals out through the back door.
“To safely reduce prison numbers, you need a plan to reduce crime which this Government does not have. There was barely anything in the Budget for crime reduction initiatives, with the biggest new spend for justice going on the 2020 Election.
“It’s time the Government fronted up to New Zealanders about its plans and explained why it is willing to gamble public safety.”
This is a Government that’s taxing more, spending more, borrowing even more than they had said and hoping that their broken promises are not noticed, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Labour spent the last nine years calling everything a crisis, yet today’s budget provides no new solutions to back up their claims,” Mr Bridges says.
“They’ve dressed it up with rhetoric like ‘starved for funding’ and ‘deficit support’ but the truth is even their health budget is underwhelming, and commits less each year than National did in the last budget.
“Today’s budget is strewn with broken promises. “No universal cheaper doctors visits, 1800 extra cops that aren’t happening when they said, no money for Dunedin hospital, not to mention a raft of new taxes from a Government that promised ‘no new taxes’ in its first term.
“Winston Peters is happy because he got his billion dollars for diplomats and a new embassy in Sweden. Unfortunately, Labour has prioritised that ahead of funding the Roxburgh children’s camp and mental health.
“Labour has realised they don’t have enough money to meet their excessive election commitments and so have increased future allowances by $5 billion.
“Spending is the easy part. Governing is about delivering New Zealanders the public services they need and getting better results – more cops on the beat, more operations in our hospitals, and our kids doing better at school. There is no sign this Government has any understanding of that approach.
“And New Zealanders are paying the price with a big lift in net Government debt, going up $10.8 billion higher than National over the next four years. And that doesn’t include an additional $6 billion of debt hidden off the Government’s balance sheet.
“Borrowing more and taxing more in strong economic conditions makes no sense and risks undoing all the hard work New Zealanders have done over the last few years.
“The big thing missing in this Budget is any meaningful help for Kiwi workers. In fact middle-income families are getting steadily worse off, with the cancellation of National’s tax changes and the coming big increases in fuel taxes that will take petrol and diesel prices to record levels.
“Kiwi families can only look enviously across the Tasman where both the Australian Government and the opposition are offering tax relief to boost family incomes.
“But the most frustrating oversight in Grant Robertson’s budget is any plan to keep our economy growing and developing. In fact it’s quite the opposite.
“This Government’s anti-business policies mean the Treasury growth projections are more a hope than a prediction, despite strong growth internationally.
“This is a hugely disappointing budget of little imagination from a Government that is borrowing more, taxing more and spending more – but has no plans for how we as a country can earn more.
“A National Government I lead will focus on providing prosperity to the next generation by investing in health and education services, paying off debt, and sustainability growing our economy.”
The Ardern-Peters Government has just announced its 100th working group or review after just 200 days in office, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The outsourcing by this Government of its obligation to lead is staggering. Every second day since it was elected the Prime Minister and her colleagues have said they don’t have the answers or a plan and they’ve asked someone else to do the job for them.
“And the longer Ardern and Peters are in power the worse it seems to gets because a quarter of these 100 announcements have come in the last month.
“Labour, NZ First and the Greens are simply bereft of good ideas, in spite of having nine years in Opposition to develop them. So they’re spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to hire consultants by the dozen to do the mahi for them.
“Though Ministers are refusing to front up with the cost, 29 of these working groups alone are estimated to have a price tag of around $66.2 million. At that rate, the remaining 71 could cost a further $160 million.
“While Labour had almost a decade to come up with sensible policies, their manifesto promises such as Kiwibuild, are being found out for the light-on-detail fiscal guesstimates they are. They’re a mess.
“And when the Government has made decisions they’ve been bad.
“A number of its policies are nothing short of economic sabotage – including putting the wrecking ball through the oil and gas sector, withdrawing funding for environmentally sustainable large-scale irrigation, industrial relations reforms which will cost jobs and the undermining of foreign investment, all of which will slow our growth.
“What’s worse is the Government knows these policies will have a negative impact on jobs and that some businesses won’t survive but as Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said at the weekend while announcing another review, businesses will just have to suck it up.
“Every day this Government is proving to New Zealanders it doesn’t have the ability to run the country, the ideas to take it forward or the best interests of New Zealanders at heart.
“National won’t make the same mistake. We’re working hard in the interests of New Zealanders and we’ll be ready with plans and policies if we earn the right to govern again in 2020.”
By contrast, the National-led Government which came into power in late 2008 set up 39 working groups, reviews or inquiries in the same time period from November 2008 to June 2009. Please find attached:
- A list of this Government’s reviews
- A list of National’s reviews from 2008 over the same period
Criteria to be included on the lists was as follows:
- Any group that has had work of Ministers outsourced to them
- Any announcement which is a review rather than an action
- Any inquiry (not required by statute enacted by a previous Government)
- Any review or working group started by the previous Government and continued or announced by the new Government was not included
Completely opposite approaches to family incomes from Governments on either side of the Tasman risk re-starting the brain drain to Australia with the income gap for middle-income earners about to start widening for the first time in a decade, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Last week we saw the Australian Federal Government and the Australian Leader of the Opposition trying to outbid each other in putting tax money back in the pockets of middle-income Australians,” Mr Bridges says.
“Meanwhile over here our Finance Minister has cancelled the tax threshold changes for middle income New Zealanders that would have made them $1060 a year better off, and is instead loading on new taxes.
“New Zealanders are about to get hit twice at the petrol pump for a regional fuel tax and national fuel tax increases that will whack prices up by 25c a litre. And that’s just the start.
“And remember we are already in surplus while Australia still has a few years to go. Our Government is being ridiculously tough on family budgets.
“As a country we all worked hard over nine years to reverse the 35,000 per year brain drain to Australia. We’ve seen wages growing at twice the rate of inflation since 2008, and 240,000 jobs added in the last two years.
“Young New Zealanders saw the opportunity for a bright future here. Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson look like they are on a mission to throw that progress away.
“We don’t want to go back to planeloads of Kiwis moving to Australia and our young families becoming economic refugees once again.
“Labour needs to realise that there is no point spending tax dollars like Father Christmas if middle income New Zealanders can’t afford to live here.
“They need to halt the fuel taxes and get their tax working group to focus on reducing the tax burden on Kiwis rather than increasing it.
“Or it will be back to the future and families will start voting with their feet and heading to Australia for a better life.”
New Zealanders have learned the true cost of Winston Peters making Jacinda Ardern Prime Minister today, with the Government writing Peters a billion dollar cheque at the same time as claiming it doesn’t have enough money to meet its excessive promises.
“The Ardern-Peters Government has its priorities badly wrong.
“Just weeks after the Prime Minister broke her promise of universal cheap GP visits claiming the Government didn’t have enough money, she’s written Winston a massive cheque to invest offshore and to open new embassies and hire more diplomats.
“What matters more to New Zealanders – more diplomats or more doctors?
“What’s more it proves that their claims of underfunding crises in health and education are just ludicrous.
“So far the Government has claimed it doesn’t have more money for child poverty and claimed its going to take years to make up for years of underfunding in social services.
“New Zealand has always played an important role internationally, and a leading role in the Pacific, and we must continue to do so.
“But the needs of New Zealanders must always be put first. Unfortunately this policy is about the needs of Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters over the rest.”
This weekend’s announcement the Government plans to cap dairy herds is ill thought-out political grandstanding, National Party leader Simon Bridges says.
“David’s Parker’s announcement that the Ardern-Peters Government plans to regulate to reduce the number of cattle that farmers are allowed per hectare of farmland is yet another example of their unchecked assault on the regions.
“We saw them blindside the oil and gas industry the other day, now they’ve done the same to the dairy industry.
“In both examples, there’s been no analysis, no consultation - and they have no plan.
“We all agree water and environmental improvements need to be made but they need to be achieved through implementing a considered plan that all parties can work through over time.
“The National Government set very specific national limits on nitrates, phosphorous, E.coli, algae and ammonia through the National Policy Statement we put in place in 2014 and 2017. This put limits on diary conversions in sensitive catchments and is progressively being rolled out by regional councils.
“In 2017 we agreed with farmers a plan for 56,000km of fencing along waterways over 12 years to come into effect in December 2017 - which this new Government has not progressed.
“Solving water quality issues is a team effort – for urban and rural communities and is not something to be imposed solely on farmers – who’ve actually played a massive part in investing and working up solutions to help improve the way they operate.
“What we’re seeing from this Government is pretty cavalier. They’re coming out with some bold statements driven by values, and not actually by hard evidence.
“It’s been clear for some time now this Ardern-Peters Government is out to get farmers – that can’t be made any clearer than the Minister for Agriculture himself saying they’d be ‘no friend to the farmer’
“And that’s just the start. He also made an off-the-cuff announcement farmers will be pulled into the ETS scheme before the interim climate change committee has even begun its work, he’s heavying of cattle industries to pay for the containment of the disease Mycoplasma Bovis over and above the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) framework, and they’ve announced they’ve axed $100 million of funding for regional irrigation projects.
“There seems to be a lack of any sort of comprehension that when the farmers sneeze, we all catch a cold. Whether we’re in rural or urban areas, we’re all in this together,” Mr Bridges says.
National Party Leader Simon Bridges says he is saddened by the passing of former National MPs Katherine O’Regan and Tony Steel this week.
“Katherine served as a National MP for 15 years and as a Minister for six.
“She was a gentle person with huge strength of character and real concern for people who made a significant contribution to New Zealand and the National Party during her career both in and outside of Parliament.
“Tony Steel was an All Black, educator and National Party MP.
“His enduring passion for education saw him make a notable contribution both as an educator, including as principal of Hamilton Boy’s High School and as chair of Parliament’s Education Select Committee.
“My thoughts and those of the National Party are with Katherine and Tony’s family and friends.”