The Government’s soft on crime approach has led to almost 1400 more people joining gangs since it took office and is deeply concerning, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Since October 2017, the number of patched gang members has increased by 26 per cent. Gang membership in the Bay of Plenty and Eastern districts has increased by more than 200 members and in the Tasman district it has almost doubled.
“The latest female extension of the Mongrel Mob, gang members refusing to hand in illegal firearms and brazen gang meetings happening in public places like Te Mata Peak shows how emboldened the gangs have become.
“The Government’s focus has been on reducing prison numbers at any cost, but it has no plan to reduce crime. An increase in gang membership means an increase in crime in our communities and more victims. It’s as simple as that.
“National tried to introduce Firearms Prohibition Orders which would have meant police had more powers to search gang members for illegal firearms but the Government voted down our Bill.
“Gangs do nothing but peddle misery and create more victims. National is the party of law and order and will ensure that there are fewer victims of crime. We will release a comprehensive Gang Plan in 2020 which will crack down hard on gangs.”
The Minister of Agriculture telling hundreds of farmers to simply ‘get over it’ in response to valid questions about the equity in their farms shows Labour doesn’t understand the role farming plays in our economy, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Four hundred farmers turned out to the Freshwater consultation meeting in Gore wanting real answers to how the policy will affect them, but instead were fobbed off by a Minister who appears to be wilfully ignorant.
“The Government has released no economic modelling on the proposals put forward, and farmers are rightfully concerned about what the cost will be on their businesses.
“Our farmers produce enough food to feed 40 million people worldwide and their products account for 60 per cent of our goods exports. It is important that policy does not stifle productivity, otherwise the whole country will feel the impact.
“Farmers work their whole lives on the land for the equity at the end, and this Government is undermining that nest egg - the fruit of farmers’ labour.
“No wonder business confidence is worse than ever.”
Action is needed over health standards for vaping and National will work with the Government to give parents greater certainty with some urgency, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“We want to ensure that vaping is a tool to help smokers quit and doesn’t become an easily accessible habit for young teens.
“With vaping companies coming together to stop restrictions, it’s important Parliament comes together too.
“Consumers also need to an assurance on standards around vaping and that these products will not be harmful to their health.
“Parents are becoming increasingly concerned that vapes are being marketed at children. They come in bright colours, have fruity flavours and being advertised liberally.
“There are concerns those who wouldn’t have taken up smoking are taking up vaping and schools are struggling to stop the growing trend.
“National will work with the Government to get clear and considered rules in place for vaping but this must be done quickly.
“While it may be too late in other countries, we have a chance to deal with this in New Zealand before it gets too big.
“There are still serious health concerns that come with vaping including pneumonia, heart disorders and lung disease. National will work constructively with Government to ensure that we’re striking the right balance around this important issue.”
It is pleasing to see the hundreds of New Zealanders who were blocked from having their say on Labour’s car tax will now have their submissions counted, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
About 1600 people submitted on the Government’s feebate through National’s website, but the Transport Ministry considered these submissions to be spam and blocked them after receiving about 500. Those 500 submissions were then treated as one submission.
“It’s disappointing that we ended up in this situation to begin with, but credit to the Ministry of Transport for acknowledging its error and taking steps to correct it,” Mr Bridges says.
“The Government cannot ignore the fact its proposed car tax is a bad idea. It will increase the price of some of New Zealand’s most popular vehicles by up to $3000.
“This policy will hurt farmers, tradespeople and low-income earners for whom low-emission vehicles will still be too expensive, and it will only reduce emissions by 0.09 per cent over 20 years, according to Treasury.
“National has said all along that it’s not fair to make families pay thousands more for a used seven-seater van while wealthy executives get discounts on a Tesla Model 3.
“Given the large number of submissions through our website and the 14,060 signatures we collected to stop Labour’s car tax, a lot of New Zealanders feel the same way.
“We hope Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter will take all of this feedback on board and do the right thing by scrapping the car tax.”
The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care and the Police have serious questions to answer about how a paedophile who was allowed to attend Royal Commission meetings was placed in a motel next to an intermediate school, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“The Royal Commission knew in May that this person had a criminal conviction that required him to inform Police of his whereabouts but they didn’t ask any questions for three months about what those convictions were.
“In the meantime the Commission allowed him to go to meetings with victims of sexual assault. Despite knowing his conviction was serious enough to have to inform Police where he was, they still booked him into accommodation next to a school.
“How did the Police approve a paedophile staying so close to a school? And why didn’t the Royal Commission ask questions sooner about what his convictions were for?
“Minister Tracey Martin has refused to express confidence in the Commission but hasn’t taken any decisive action. Given these latest revelations, it’s time for her actually do something. Police Minister Stuart Nash must also ask Police to explain. If they won’t act, the Prime Minister should.”
In an affront to democracy, the Associate Transport Minister has discarded public submissions from at least 1000 people who don’t support her Government’s car tax proposal, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
Documents released under the Official Information Act reveal Julie Anne Genter’s ministry blocked New Zealanders from submitting on the vehicle feebate proposal via a website set up by National because it considered their contributions to be “spam”.
A total of 1594 people made formal submissions on the proposal through National’s website while another 14,060 people signed a petition to stop Labour’s car tax.
It is unclear clear whether any of the submissions that made it through to the ministry before it moved to block them were even counted as part of the public consultation.
National is now calling on the Associate Transport Minister to reopen public consultation so that all New Zealanders who want to participate in this important debate can do so.
“It is utterly unacceptable for a Minister to ignore submissions from people who don’t agree with her, and to even go as far as blocking opposing views,” Mr Bridges says.
“It’s hypocritical for the Government to block submissions on forms supplied by National when it had no problem accepting 4190 submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill that were based on forms supplied by the likes of Generation Zero, Greenpeace and Forest & Bird.
“We now know Julie Anne Genter was being liberal with the truth when she said in August that about 80 per cent of online responses supported the car tax.
“She was ignoring the thousands who spoke out against the proposal through submissions and National’s petition. The reality is most New Zealanders do not support Labour’s car tax.
“National didn’t bend anyone’s arm to speak up. These people did so out of genuine concern about being stung up to $3000 for not buying a low-emission vehicle.
“This is yet more evidence that this Government can’t be trusted on transport and Julie Anne Genter cannot be trusted to operate in a fair, open and transparent manner.
“She must now do the right thing and reopen public submissions, as well as explain to New Zealanders why she will only entertain people who share her way of looking at things.”
The National Party will not take down our social media videos following a ruling yesterday by the Speaker of the House, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Freedom of speech is of fundamental importance to our Parliamentary democracy and to New Zealanders.
“Yesterday’s Speaker’s ruling has regrettably put the National Party in the worst of all positions. The Speaker has neither referred the matter to the Privileges Committee for a definitive public hearing, nor ruled in our favour as we believe he should.
“Instead he has attempted to stop us from holding the Government to account by drawing attention to Parliamentary proceedings. He has pushed the matter to a process which effectively gags us for a significant period of time.
“After the National Party pointed out that this would also include hundreds of videos from Labour, The Greens and NZ First when they were in Opposition, he made an amended ruling that this only applies to videos posted this year, therefore this only really affects the National Party.
“We have the highest respect for the role of the Speaker and his Office. But in the interests of freedom of expression and against censorship, we will keep the videos up to decisively bring this to a head.”
The Labour Party’s attempt at stopping the Opposition from highlighting what goes on in Parliament is a chilling move designed to stop freedom of expression, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Speaker Trevor Mallard has ruled that MPs have until 5pm on Friday to take down publicly available footage from Parliament that appears in their social media videos.
“Sound bites have been used this way for decades in all forms of media and by all New Zealand political parties. It’s the more recent accessibility of social media to highlight soundbites that has rankled the Labour Party and seen them petition the Speaker.
“The Speaker’s interim direction/ruling means parliamentarians cannot highlight soundbites from Parliamentary TV, but any outside media can. This is just a gag on the National Party.
“National believes it is important for New Zealanders to see how their elected representatives perform in Parliament, whether it’s Finance Minister Grant Robertson not knowing what one per cent of GDP is, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni not knowing what CPI stands for, or Education Minister Chris Hipkins admitting mass redundancies as part of his Polytechnic reforms.
“What seems to have tipped Labour over the edge, prompting the privileges complaint, is a video of Labour MP and Chair of the powerful Finance and Expenditure Committee Deborah Russell describing ‘wellbeing’ as part of the ancient wisdom, where she shared the story of Diogenes casting his bowl aside to drink water just out of his hands.
“The video did not attack or criticise the Labour Party or the Government. It accurately reflects Dr Russell’s speech to Parliament about the meaning of ‘wellbeing’.
“Junior Labour Whip Kieran McAnulty laid the complaint with the Speaker about National using publicly available footage for the video. He wants to stop us from being able to show any Parliamentary footage.
“When National was in Government, Labour also used footage from Parliament. Often heavily edited. We didn’t complain as we stood by our record and we encourage political debate.
“National believes that Parliament should be accessible to all New Zealanders. We believe in robust political debate. We believe our videos make Parliamentary process accessible and engaging.
“Rather than a Standing Orders hearing, which will take months and is designed to gag the National Party, we will work to ensure this is resolved urgently.
“We are seeking that assurance from the Speaker, or we will consider other options.”
Tracey Martin needs to immediately explain how a convicted paedophile has been allowed to be involved in meetings at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“It is impossible to comprehend how a person who has been convicted of such heinous crimes was allowed anywhere near meetings which included survivors of sexual abuse.
“The offender attended three meetings with members of the survivors’ advisory group. There were red flags early on with an email sent to the organisers saying he needed three days’ notice to tell the police if he needed to travel to attend meetings. That’s because he’s on the Sex Offenders Register and there needed to be assurances he wouldn’t be near children.
“The Royal Commission found out in May that this person had a criminal conviction but it was August before it got further details about what the conviction was for, it was during that time that he attended the meetings. The Royal Commission hasn’t been able to say whether it chased this information, or whether it was volunteered.
“To have this serious sexual offender involved in a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care is an abhorrent and gross breach of trust by Government. The survivors have already been betrayed and let down repeatedly by the State in circumstances similar to the offending by this man.
“When the Prime Minister announced this inquiry she said ‘Any abuse of children is a tragedy, and for those most vulnerable children in state care, it is unconscionable’.
“As a father and a former Crown Prosecutor, I find it unconscionable that a paedophile was allowed anywhere near this Royal Commission.
“Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin needs to be upfront about when she was made aware of this and what action she took. When she found out, she should have ensured immediately that he had absolutely no further connection with this inquiry.
“This is one of the biggest inquiries in New Zealand history, it will cost $78 million. The highly respected Chair has resigned, there have been a range of other issues, and now this. How can anyone now have confidence in this Royal Commission? The Minister must explain.”
The Government’s handling of Ihumātao has shown it has no respect for property rights, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“It’s been eight weeks since the Prime Minister told Fletcher Buildings it had to stop developing much needed houses on land that it owns. Since then, Fletchers has not been invited to be part of negotiations. It’s had to sit on the side-line as others have tried to take away its rights.
“It has set an appalling precedent for a Prime Minister to insert herself into the business of a private company and prevent it from building 480 much needed houses.
“No wonder business confidence has plummeted when the Prime Minister shows such blatant disregard for businesses and property rights.
“It doesn’t matter where in the world the Prime Minister is, it’s time for her to set the record straight. She needs to tell the protestors to go home, make it clear that the Government won’t be spending taxpayers’ dollars on buying the land and rule out any sort of deal.
“This matter doesn’t concern her. It’s time to butt out and give Fletchers back the land they legally own.”