National Party Leader Simon Bridges has thanked retiring MP Chris Finlayson for his immense contribution to New Zealand and the National Party, following his announcement today he will leave Parliament in January.
“Chris Finlayson has been one of Parliament’s smartest MPs, keenest legal minds and an incredibly successful Minister. He will be a big loss to the National Caucus.
“He helped forge a new era in Crown-Maori relations, negotiating more than 60 Treaty of Waitangi settlements over his nine years as Minister.
“Chris’s immense understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi, his ambition to ensure full and final settlements and use of legal innovations have helped set New Zealand up for a post-settlement future.
“During his career he also oversaw a rewrite of New Zealand’s security and intelligence legislation, reformed the arts sector and repealed the divisive Foreshore and Seabed Act, replacing it with the Marine and Coastal Area Act which restored the common law customary rights removed by the previous Government.
“Chris has been a great and often forthright colleague whose counsel was sought regularly by colleagues and by successive National Party Prime Ministers and Leaders, including myself.
“I am sorry to see him announce his resignation from Parliament but am sure he will go on to have a successful career post-politics.”
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has confirmed he is unfit for office by finally coming to the same conclusion on convicted drug smuggler Karel Sroubek that every other New Zealander reached weeks ago, National Leader Simon Bridges says.
“After taking 45 minutes to make the decision, then a month to review it, the Minister has finally realised he made the wrong decision by granting a dangerous criminal residency in New Zealand.
“He now says Mr Sroubek is liable for deportation – though if Mr Sroubek appeals then this could clog up our courts for months and cost taxpayers significantly.
“To justify his original decision, Mr Lees-Galloway is throwing his officials under the bus, even though he didn’t bother to read all of the information they gave him.
“Clearly he should have. This was a convicted drug smuggler, currently imprisoned, who came to New Zealand on a false passport and associates with gangs.
“Mr Lees-Galloway claims the fact Mr Sroubek went back to the Czech Republic was difficult information to find and yet the Opposition and the media found it easily with a Google search.
“Mr Lees-Galloway realised early on that he had this badly wrong but tried to be secretive and sweep it under the carpet by claiming the public didn’t deserve to know the reasons behind his decision.
“He has put at risk the safety of New Zealanders because he didn’t do his job properly and read the file – all of which he should now put in the public domain so the public can judge for themselves.
“The Minister claims he was using processes put in place by the previous Government but none of our Ministers ever read a file involving a serious criminal in just 45 minutes without asking the relevant questions and allowed them to stay.
“Mr Lees-Galloway has lost all credibility, undermined our immigration system and made New Zealanders less safe. He should resign.”
Thanks for having me here today to talk about National’s plan for helping you and your families.
We have a lot of ideas already and we’re excited about them - but we also want to hear from you.
We’re a year into Opposition and we’re taking a good look at all of our plans and policies, running the ruler over what worked and what we could do better.
We did a lot of things well in Government but we didn’t get it all right.
A big part of that process is talking to New Zealanders about how you want us to help you.
You know your families, your own circumstances and the issues facing you better than anyone else.
We know you are ambitious for yourselves and your families and we know you want to make New Zealand a better place for your children.
You are in the forefront of our minds every time we make a decision and every time we critique the Government.
Decisions made in the Beehive directly affect you and in my view a lot of the ones made recently have had negative consequences for you and other New Zealand families.
Cost of Living
National MPs are heavily involved in our communities and one of the things we hear about more than anything is the rising cost of living.
Keeping the cost of living down is one of National’s top priorities.
It's just as important as growing incomes because if your weekly costs are going up faster than wages then it’s harder for you to get ahead. Living becomes less affordable and you have fewer choices.
And that's exactly what’s happened in the past 12 months. Costs are increasing faster than wages – and much of that is the result of new taxes and poorly thought through policies.
It’s becoming more expensive to get by, the Government is taking more of what you earn, and incomes aren’t rising fast enough. The Government has more and you have less. That’s wrong.
Nobody is doubting the Government’s good intentions but these good intentions have consequences that are actually doing more harm than good.
Take just one of the biggest cost increases in the past year - rents.
This is a classic example of good intentions that have resulted in bad policies and bad outcomes.
The Government is imposing a raft of new taxes and regulations on landlords including ring fencing of losses, extending the bright line test, changing the Residential Tenancies Act, introducing more costly standards and threatening a capital gains tax.
Well those decisions have had negative consequences.
Here’s an example. The Government have banned letting fees.
But Landlords are now charging more rent to cover these new costs. Some are even selling up because it’s become too expensive, too difficult and too complicated. Fewer rentals, higher rents. Good intentions, bad outcomes.
Now the Prime Minister is “hoping” rents don’t increase. She can hope all she likes - but rent increases are already a reality for many families.
In just the past 12 months, the median rent across New Zealand has gone up by $30 a week - or $1,500 a year.
That’s two and a half times faster than when we were in Government.
And rents are rising rapidly in almost every region across New Zealand.
In Wellington, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne they’re up almost $50 a week.
Petrol prices also recently reached record highs. It not only costs you more to rent your house - it costs you more to drive to and from it.
Part of this is out of New Zealand’s control. But for reasons best only know to them, when international petrol prices were rising rapidly, the Government decided to make it even worse by piling on more taxes.
Over three years they are introducing three rounds of petrol tax hikes plus a regional fuel tax in Auckland. And that’s on top of the extra GST they get when the global price rises.
For most of you, these are taxes that simply cannot be avoided.
The kids still need to be dropped off at school or picked up from sports practice. You still need to get to work and to the supermarket. People lead busy lives and the Government should not be making those lives more and more expensive.
But this Government is. The typical car now costs $15 more to fill up than this time last year thanks to new taxes, a slumping dollar and higher oil prices.
The impact is real. We hear it every day.
We’ve heard from a mother in Canterbury who can no longer afford to take her Down Syndrome son to a special school in the next town over because she can’t afford the petrol.
Another person has told us how they are buying their parents petrol vouchers for Christmas so they can afford to go to their regular hospital visits a 45 minute drive away.
And a hearing clinic in Auckland says people are not turning up for appointments because they can’t afford the visits, or the petrol to get there.
So why is the Government persisting with its deliberate cost of living increases? Because of an ideological commitment to wasteful spending, such as slow and expensive trams in Auckland, the failed fees free education policy and the regional slush fund.
In the meantime, Kiwi families are hurting.
Flow on cost increases
We also know that when fuel prices and rents go up, so does the cost of everything else.
When it costs more to get groceries to the supermarkets, or produce them in the first place, then groceries cost more.
If those costs are not passed on to consumers, then New Zealand businesses have to absorb the cost, which risks their futures and means they are less likely to expand or hire someone new.
One small supermarket owner is so worried about the Government’s labour law changes that instead of hiring seven staff, he’s putting in four new self-scanning machines and hiring just three people.
This is all because the Government’s decision making has led to an economy where incomes are not rising fast enough, families and business are struggling to get ahead, and basics like petrol and rent are costing New Zealanders more.
Right now, 1.7 million families are worse off because the Government cancelled our Family Income’s Package which would have seen most families at least $1000 better off each year.
Wrap-up of costs
The bottom line is this Government’s decisions are hurting New Zealanders.
Why should a family in West Auckland which is trying to make ends meet have to pay $15 extra every time they fill up their car, $30 extra every week in rent, and be forced to forego tax cuts that would have left more than $40 each week in their back pockets?
That adds up. That makes their lives harder.
National is ambitious for you and your family, and we will develop policies that help you get ahead and fight against needless costs being imposed on you.
What will National do?
So let's be clear what we would do:
First, a focus on good outcomes over good intentions
The current Government is prioritising good intentions over good outcomes.
The Oil and Gas ban may have sounded good – its aim was to reduce emissions. That’s a good intention. But we now know that not only will it not do that, it will actually increase global emissions.
On top of that it will result in less energy security, higher electricity prices, fewer jobs and lower incomes for New Zealanders. We will have to import coal and gas from overseas instead of producing it ourselves – that is madness. Good intentions but a very bad outcome.
All the changes the Government is making to the rental market are supposed to make it better for renters. But, unfortunately, the opposite is happening. Good intentions, bad outcomes.
The expensive tram from Auckland’s CBD to the airport. It might fulfil an election promise but it means billions of dollars in extra costs, paid for by higher taxes. That’s one of the reasons why you are paying higher prices at the pump than this time last year. Good intentions, bad outcomes.
This Government cares a lot about rhetoric. We care about results.
Second, we will repeal the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax
Phil Goff should run his council more effectively and manage his books. If he did what he promised and cut wasteful spending Auckland could meet its transport needs without the regional fuel tax.
We will get rid of it.
Third, no nationwide petrol tax increases in our first term
We wouldn’t be adding an excise tax at a time when petrol prices are already rising.
The Government is already collecting more revenue from higher petrol prices and it should not be adding new taxes.
Core to our values, there will be no new taxes
We will not introduce any new taxes during our first term.
Unlike the current Government which promised during the election not to introduce new taxes yet did so anyway, we will actually deliver on that promise.
Michael Cullen’s Tax Working Group has announced it is putting together two options for a new Capital Gains Tax.
But this will lead to higher rents. Even the Tax Working Group concedes that.
And there will be flow on effects. A Capital Gains Tax will also affect everybody’s KiwiSaver – directly taxing people saving for their retirement.
A Capital Gains Tax would be a tax on hard-working New Zealanders’ retirement funds, the family farm and the family bach.
It is another tax on small business owners and entrepreneurs - people who have worked hard for decades paying tax and employing people, only to get whacked with a new tax when they sell up.
It won’t fix the housing market, but it will increase rents for those who can least afford it the most.
I believe Kiwis pay too much tax already.
So today, I am making a commitment to you – if the Government legislates a Capital Gains Tax, like the Tax Working Group has signalled it will recommend, before the next election, then we will get rid of it.
Finally, we will continually increase funding for core public services
Just because we will let New Zealanders keep more of what they earn does not mean we won’t keep increasing spending on core public services like Health, Education and Transport.
That’s the benefit of having a strong economy – you can do both.
We will spend taxpayer money wisely, and eliminate wasteful spending. We will fund core services based on good outcomes, not good intentions.
We championed the Social Investment Approach which meant that every taxpayer dollar was invested in a way that provided genuinely better outcomes for New Zealanders.
We like to think of it as how a family or a small business manages their own budgets. You have to account for every single dollar you spend, make sure you don’t overspend and if you do, find ways to save a little. You make sure every dollar is spent as wisely as possible.
You should expect nothing less from your Government.
So when we see tax relief for every New Zealander replaced by a $3 billion regional slush fund which resulted in $160,000 of trees being mulched, or a $2.8 billion fees free policy that saw 2,400 fewer students in tertiary education, and at least $250 million on 190 working groups because the Government didn’t do the work in Opposition, we know they’re not spending wisely.
All of these are examples of this Government taking money off New Zealanders, money which they could be using to help make ends meet, and wasting it.
Focus on growing the economy
National will continue to focus on the economy because New Zealanders deserve more jobs, higher incomes and better opportunities.
We understand that it is businesses and individuals, not the government, that create jobs and allow New Zealand to prosper.
One of the best indicators of how people view economic opportunities is how they vote with their feet.
When we came into Government, 30,000 people were leaving for Australia. We turned that around. Last year more people were coming back to New Zealand than leaving for Australia. However, the outward trend has started again. This year alone a net 2,700 people left for Australia.
That’s because people are now starting to see more opportunities for them over the Tasman than they see here.
We want to make New Zealand the place where people want to live, work and raise their families.
We want your children and grandchildren to stay here and have opportunities. That’s why this matters.
Have Your Say Families/Conclusion
One of National’s top priorities is helping you and your families get ahead.
You have heard today some of our principles and our commitments to you because we know those things will make a difference to your lives.
But we also want to hear more from you.
You know what is keeping your families from reaching your full potential.
So as part of our policy process we’re asking you specifically what you want the next National Government to prioritise.
Our next Have Your Say campaign is about families.
My commitment to you is we will keep you at the heart of whatever we do.
And should we earn the right to govern again, helping you and your family get ahead will remain our priority.
National Leader Simon Bridges says there will be no Capital Gains Tax under a National Government, it would repeal a CGT if put in place by the Labour-led Government and there wouldn’t be any new taxes in its first term.
The announcement was made today in Auckland, as National also launched its ‘Have your Say’ Families campaign.
“Michael Cullen’s Tax Working Group has announced it is putting together two options for a Capital Gains Tax. Even the Tax Working Group has conceded that this won’t fix the housing market but will lead to higher rents for those who can least afford it.
“Under this Government rents have risen 2.5 times faster than under National. This is because of a raft of poor policy decisions including imposing new taxes and regulations on landlords including ring fencing of losses, extending the bright line test, changing the Residential Tenancies Act and introducing more costly standards.
“A Capital Gains Tax is a tax on small business owners and entrepreneurs, people who have worked hard for decades to grow the value of their business, paying tax and employing people, only to get whacked with yet more tax when they sell for retirement.
“This Government claims to be kind, but these policies are hurting Kiwi families. A Capital Gains Tax would only add to the pain.
“A Capital Gains Tax would also affect everybody’s KiwiSaver, directly taxing people saving for their retirement.
“Kiwis pay more than enough tax already. If this Government reined in its wasteful spending it would be able to continue increasing funding for core public services without more taxes.
“National is committed to helping families get ahead. Under this Government petrol and rents are increasing. Nobody’s doubting that this Government has good intentions but those good intentions have consequences that are doing more harm than good.”
The cost of Housing Minister Phil Twyford’s flagship housing scheme KiwiBuild has been woefully underestimated, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Documents released to National show KiwiBuild will cost 10 times more than what Labour calculated and announced in Opposition. This raises serious questions about the credibility of KiwiBuild.
“Earlier this year the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) advised Mr Twyford that the $2 billion budget was only enough to build 1,000 houses a year under Labour’s original model.
“But Labour has promised it would build 10,000 homes a year by the end of its first term in office. Rather than increasing the budget 10-fold, Labour has shifted the policy from KiwiBuild to KiwiBuy and is underwriting private developers to build the houses for them.
“Labour had nine years in Opposition to come up with policies. It’s unbelievable that one of its flagship policies that it campaigned on in the election was miscalculated by such a huge amount.
“We’re not talking about a small error, Labour underestimated its flagship housing policy by $18 billion dollars.
“Taxpayers are forking out for a housing subsidy scheme for middle to high income earners.
“This adds to the headaches KiwiBuild is already causing the Government. Houses are not being built in the right places, at the right size, for the right price, which means they’ll have to be sold for less than what the Crown paid for them.
“MBIE also advised there was a high risk that there won’t be enough buyers for the KiwiBuild homes the Government is underwriting. This is clear already with one of the first ballots for a KiwiBuild home already extended due to a lack of interest.
“MBIE expects the cost of the underwriting scheme to go into the hundreds of millions, or possibly billions, over the next 10 years. This is a huge under-estimation from the Government.
“KiwiBuild hasn’t been properly thought through and it’s costing taxpayers millions more than first announced.”
National Leader Simon Bridges has today launched the ‘Have Your Say’ campaign for Seniors as the next step in National’s 2020 election policy development process.
“National knows how important it is that we care for older New Zealanders. We want all New Zealanders to live enjoyable and meaningful lives.
“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.
“New Zealand has an aging population so we have a unique opportunity to work with older New Zealanders to ensure we help get them the support they need.
“We want to see a high-performing health system that helps people lead longer, vibrant lives. At the moment 70,000 Kiwis are living with dementia today, and by 2050 it will be over 170,000. We need to make sure there is a range of care support for the elderly and their families. We also want to look at aged care services and how they can be improved.
“We want to provide certainty for New Zealanders when it comes to retirement. That means a robust superannuation system.
“The opinions of all New Zealanders matter to us, we value the contribution of older New Zealanders and we want to keep connected to our communities so we can develop meaningful policies that will improve lives.”
Rent increases are accelerating under this Government, making a mockery of its claim to be prioritising New Zealand’s lower-income households, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Median rents have risen by $30 a week in the past 12 months, which is an increase of $1560 a year.
“Rents have gone up 2.5 times faster under the Labour-led Government than under National, adding to the strain on households forced to stretch each dollar further as the cost of living rises.
“Rent hikes are just the latest burden on Kiwis from a Government slow to learn about the unintended consequences of bad policy such as fees-free tertiary education that largely benefits high income households or petrol taxes that are regressive and disproportionately hurt the poor.
“A raft of poorly thought through policies are behind the recent spike in rents, including extending the bright-line test, ring fencing of losses, more burdensome regulations, the ban on foreign investment and the threat of a capital gains tax. All of these policies discourage private rentals and inevitably drive up rents.
“For the third of New Zealanders who don’t own their home these policies are doing more harm than good.
“Mum and Dad investors are being driven out of the property market by the ‘like it or lump it’ Housing Minister. But as the KiwiBuild mess shows, Phil Twyford has lost credibility to manage change in his portfolio, having inflated expectations and under-delivered.
“The Government hates to admit it, but it inherited an economy in good shape and National is pleased to see that momentum continue. The Finance Minister claims credit for any positive data but the reality is that the economy’s strength was built under nine years of National.
“And the rising costs are flowing through to more hardship grants issued by the Ministry of Social Development, which has jumped by 54,000 in the past 12 months.
“National believes a strong, growing economy delivers the best returns for New Zealanders. Growth doesn’t just mean profits. It means more jobs, higher wages and a better standard of living. Right now we have a Government that is just costing New Zealanders more.”
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.”