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.
The Government is refusing to accept the impact it is having on the back pockets of New Zealanders by forcing through another petrol tax hike when Kiwis are already paying record prices for fuel, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The cost of living is increasing in New Zealand, with petrol and rents reaching record levels, and electricity is expected to follow – all as a direct result of Government policies.
“New Zealanders are already paying record prices for petrol, with the national fuel price at $2.44 a litre for 91, around half of which is already tax. That follows the Government adding another 4 cents per litre of tax on petrol overnight.
“And that’s just the first of three 4 cent hikes plus the likelihood Auckland’s 11.5 cents per litre regional fuel tax will soon be rolled out around the rest of the country.
“Under this Government petrol prices have increased by 38 cents, meaning it now costs Kiwis an extra $20 each time they fill up their cars.
“On top of this, ACC this week proposed a 12.1 per cent hike in the average motor vehicle levy for road users, including almost 2 cents a litre increase for petrol.
“At the same time the Government is spending billions of dollars on a tram in Auckland and sucking funding out of regional roads. People outside Auckland are paying more and getting less.
“This is just the latest blow to wage earners and businesses struggling to deal with the already high petrol costs.
“New Zealand families and businesses are being squeezed as costs rise but incomes aren’t keeping up. Data from Statistics New Zealand shows the cost of living rose faster than incomes over the last three months.
“National’s plan is different. We would get rid of the regional fuel tax, fund regional roading projects right around the country, find a more cost effective solution to Auckland’s tram, get Government spending under control, drive down the costs Kiwi families are facing and make sure they keep more of what they earn.”
A National Government would repeal the undemocratic waka jumping legislation which was passed today, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill, or waka jumping legislation, is an affront to democracy, it stops individual MPs standing up for the voters who elected them. It would more accurately be called the ‘Winston Peters Self Preservation Bill’ as it was his bottom line for entry into the Coalition.
“This Bill is also bad for New Zealand’s international reputation, with international watchers confirming it would likely affect our reputation as one of the world’s most transparent and democratic countries.
“The Bill has been condemned by 20 legal and political academics, eight professors from the Universities of Auckland, AUT, Victoria, Canterbury and Otago released a submission opposing the law change and attesting to the breach of the Bill of Rights.
“The Green Party has had to compromise its principles and been called out by its own supporters for it, Labour’s Māori caucus has failed to stand up for what’s right and Mr Peters has again shown who’s really in charge.
“It’s a sad day for New Zealanders, and a sad day for democracy. National would overturn Mr Peter’s anti-democratic Bill.”
A National-led Government would sign up to the latest international push to tackle drugs, overturning the Labour-led Government’s decision not to, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Combatting the manufacture and supply of drugs requires governments and law enforcement agencies from right around the world to work together. And we must share ideas about how to tackle addiction and drug use.
“That’s why the Prime Minister’s decision not to sign New Zealand up to the Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem at the UN this week, distancing New Zealand from those international efforts, is concerning.
“More than 120 countries including some of our closest partners from Australia to the US, the UK and Canada have signalled their intention to do their part.
“The Prime Minister’s excuse for not signing up, that the Government is taking ‘a health approach’ isn’t good enough. The strategy calls for countries to do more to address addiction and provide more treatment as well as working more closely together to clamp down on manufacturing and supply.
“Taken together, that’s how we will deal with the drug problem.
“But by distancing New Zealand from that work the Prime Minister risks making New Zealand an easy target and sending the message that her Government is soft on crime and drug dealers.
“This is the latest example of this Government’s soft-on-crime approach. It’s failing to act quickly on synthetic cannabis which continues to become a bigger issue and it’s promising to make it harder for people to be sent to prison and easier for them to get out.
“National will sign up to the agreement, we will support those with drug and alcohol issues but we will also hold those who peddle these drugs to account. The Prime Minister needs to properly explain why she won’t.”
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.”