Good afternoon everyone.
It’s fantastic to be here in Christchurch to speak to you about National’s vision for New Zealand, our principles and our priorities for this year and beyond.
We’re starting to see here the city you deserve with the sort of houses, restaurants, libraries, businesses and playgrounds which make it such a great place to live.
Your strength in terms of your economy, land for development, and rebuild platform have you well placed to grow without the costs and challenges facing other cities.
There’s been strong investment and leadership over the last decade that’s delivered this.
National will work to ensure the Government does not throw away the momentum or reduce the focus on Christchurch, but stays on course for this fantastic city and region.
I hope you’ve all had a good holiday.
All of last year and throughout the summer National’s been focused on the issues that matter to New Zealanders.
We’re already holding the Government to account on the real issues: higher rents, petrol and electricity prices and higher taxes, wasteful spending, the endless stream of working groups and a softening approach to crime.
As well, we are shining the light on bad policies like the ban on oil and gas exploration and restricting foreign investment.
But we’re not negative for the sake of it. We are a constructive Opposition.
We worked with the Government to improve the Child Poverty Reduction Bill, we’re working together on an Independent Climate Change Commission and we’ve gained cross-party support for Nikki Kaye’s second language in schools Bill.
We’ve got almost 50 Member’s Bills in the ballot.
We’re proud of the record we left in Government and more importantly are excited about our plans for New Zealand, should we earn the right to govern next year.
If that happens, we will hit the ground running.
So today I will broadly outline my vision, and National’s plan.
I’m positive about New Zealand’s prospects. I believe New Zealand is at its best as a confident, outward-looking nation, open to the world.
I believe in freedom and personal responsibility - in equal opportunities, not equal outcomes.
And I know that most New Zealanders work hard to make ends meet and therefore the tax they pay should be treated with respect.
Families have to live within their means, and so should the Government.
It goes without saying that a government needs to keep investing in core services like health, education, transport and Police.
We must also protect our environment.
And speaking of protection, I am unashamedly focused on protecting New Zealanders from criminals and gangs.
No question: I will always put the interests of law-abiding New Zealanders ahead of the interests of criminals.
Today I want to elaborate on some of these issues.
Let me start with the economy.
It’s New Zealand businesses and workers that grow our country’s wealth, not the government.
But government policies affect businesses for good and bad.
National, obviously, is interested in those that do good, and that help businesses grow, hire more workers and pay higher wages.
When National left government in late 2017, our economy was one of the best performing in the developed world.
Growth had averaged more than three per cent a year in the previous five years and was expected to continue at about that pace well into the 2020s.
Forecasts for large deficits caused by the Global Financial Crisis had become healthy surpluses faster than most OECD countries, while we were still investing billions in core services and rebuilding Canterbury after the earthquakes.
Now, as a result of that hard work and those tough choices, New Zealand has been succeeding and Kiwis should be getting ahead.
They should be receiving their social dividend.
But, for the first time in years our growth per person is falling behind Australia. For many New Zealanders, incomes are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living.
This Government’s bad decisions are driving up the cost of necessities like petrol, rents and electricity and they can’t help themselves from adding new taxes.
New petrol taxes are costing households $250 a year and more costs on landlords have already driven up rents by $30 a week.
At the same time, the Government cancelled tax relief which would have given the typical working Kiwi an extra $1,000 a year.
The claim that tax relief would only benefit the wealthy just isn’t true unless you think that someone earning $50,000, or even $70,000 a year is wealthy.
I don’t think that.
National does not think that.
Average income earners are missing out. An extra $1,000 a year, on top of rising wages, would have given them fewer worries, and more choices.
Cancelling National’s tax relief and replacing it with Labour’s package has made three quarters of New Zealand families worse off.
The Government now has more money, while New Zealanders have less.
And worse is coming.
The Government will likely soon confirm a Capital Gains Tax on small businesses, farms, lifestyle blocks, family baches, rental properties and KiwiSaver accounts.
That is even though New Zealanders already pay too much tax.
Why do I say that? Because this Government is wasteful.
It’s wasting $2.8 billion on fees-free tertiary education for students already going to university, another $3 billion on a slush fund that NZ First is shamelessly using to buy votes, and almost $300 million on working groups because Labour didn't do the work in opposition.
They’ve set up more than 200 working groups, all the while talking a lot about kindness and wellbeing.
But underneath all of the working groups and political spin is a Government with no real plan for how to improve the lives of New Zealanders.
Any government can spend someone else’s money loosely. There’s no skill in that.
The skill is creating growth and prosperity, not more taxes.
That’s why if National is elected in 2020, we will:
- Repeal the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax,
- Ensure no increase in petrol taxes during our first term
- Have no new taxes in our first term
- And repeal a Capital Gains Tax.
Remember, the global economy is facing substantial headwinds and they may get worse.
There are trade tensions between the US and China, the impact of Brexit is looking hairier by the day, growth in China and Europe is slowing and there are clear signs that a decade of sustained economic growth may be coming to an end.
And it’s more than just global conditions we should be worried about. Domestic economic growth has slowed.
It didn’t get much attention, but at the end of last year we had our weakest quarterly growth in five years.
We also saw households close their wallets, house sales stall, and businesses and consumers deeply concerned about the Government’s lack of an economic plan.
Now is not the time to be imposing policies that hurt economic growth.
We should help our businesses and their employees weather uncertain times, not add to their costs and uncertainty with policies like a Capital Gains Tax.
Law and Order
National is tough on crime.
When we were last in government, National reduced youth crime by 31 per cent, crime overall was down 13 per cent and the number of people reoffending fell 26 per cent.
Untold people were spared the pain of becoming victims because of those statistics.
It didn’t happen by accident. We held offenders accountable and worked with those willing to improve their lives.
This Government has gone soft on crime, making it harder to send people to prison and easier for them to get out.
Its sympathy now rests with the criminals.
I can promise you that should I become Prime Minister, my priorities will be different.
Before I entered politics I was a Crown Prosecutor. I prosecuted hundreds of men and women, some of whom had done the worst things one person can do to another.
Assaults, rapes, murders.
I’m concerned the Government is slashing the prison population by a third, without any plan to lower the crime rate first.
They should be aiming for a third fewer victims but instead their focus is on offenders.
It concerns me, and it should concern you, that this Government has let a number of serious, violent offenders be housed at the same address as vulnerable children.
And it concerns me, and probably you, that this Government puts more emphasis on compassion for offenders than for victims.
We need to remain tough on people who commit crime, we need to prevent it happening in the first place and we need to reduce reoffending.
We’re already putting forward new ideas to make that happen including our medicinal cannabis bill and the appointment of Paula Bennett as our Spokesperson for Drug Reform.
Deterrence and treatment should go hand in hand. It makes sense and a National Government will make it happen.
We support increased investment in rehabilitation but we also support tough penalties for dealers and necessary powers for Police to combat drugs.
And we will keep championing the Social Investment Approach to Justice which allows us to use data and analytics to identify the best intervention points to prevent crime.
It’s about wise interventions to stop crime happening in the first place.
It isn’t going softer on criminals; it isn’t reducing sentences; and it isn’t letting people out earlier.
I am determined that under the next National Government, New Zealand will become the safest place to live in the world.
Between now and the election we will continue to put forward the ideas to make that happen.
The housing shortage remains serious. We all know it.
Under National we were in the middle of a record residential building boom, but we knew we needed to do more.
This Government claimed the answer was to build 100,000 homes.
So far they’ve built 47.
Yet they’re nearly halfway through their term. They’re now admitting they’ll fail to meet their own targets.
We know we didn’t do enough in Government, but the answer is to free up land and reduce red tape.
We know it works. It worked here in Christchurch.
So this year National will release a draft Bill that will overhaul the Resource Management Act and unlock development, while protecting our environment.
We can get that balance right.
And we know how important it is to invest in New Zealand’s infrastructure and our regions.
To unlock the potential of regional New Zealand we need world-class transport networks, including better state highways and public transport.
Our regions deserve to be able to travel where they need to go efficiently, while keeping safe. We will ensure that.
I also want to talk about education. I’m dad to three children and I come from a family of teachers – I know the concerns.
Education is the great leveller in society. I want every child to have the opportunity to succeed, no matter who they are or where they come from.
We are in a global competition and our students must be able to foot it with the best in the world.
What I see from this Government worries me.
I worry, for example, that it’s introduced 18 reviews and working groups in education alone.
It plans to take power away from parents in favour of bureaucrats. It intends on making it harder for parents to measure their children’s achievements.
I worry they are axing new school models targeted at supporting the most vulnerable.
And most of all I worry that we’re on the precipice of fundamental, irreversible change which will cause serious damage to our education system.
National has a plan.
Over the next two years you’ll see three things from National in education.
First, we’ll keep fighting the Government’s bad decisions.
That means we’ll plan to reinstate, revamp and rev up the partnership schools model so that we have schools that fit kids, because we know that kids do not always fit schools.
We will bring back accountability to parents by mandating progress reporting and we will fight the Government’s plans to entirely centralise education, disempower boards of trustees and reduce choice and the sense of community in schools.
Second, we’ll listen to you.
Over the next couple of months New Zealanders will be invited to over 30 nationwide public meetings to discuss how the Government’s changes to our education system will affect you and your children.
Third, we’ll announce a fully costed, comprehensive, and ambitious education policy.
We’ve previously indicated some areas of focus: class sizes, quality of early learning education, and using evidence to make the best investments to improve lives.
That evidence-based investment extends right across our public services.
We fundamentally altered the way government delivers services to ensure better outcomes for all New Zealanders, without spending billions of dollars more.
It was no mistake that our Government managed to increase the number of elective surgeries, reduce hospital waiting lists, get more Kiwis off the dole and into work, and helped tens of thousands of solo mums get the support they needed.
This right through the GFC and rebuilding cities after the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes.
I want to continue this important work.
So it makes no sense that there are now 11,000 more people on jobseeker benefits in the last year, despite unemployment being so low and businesses crying out for more workers.
That’s not good enough.
New Zealanders expect their government to deliver world class public services. They want a Government focussed on the best outcomes for them. That will be our focus.
New Zealanders have always trusted National with managing the economy.
They know we’ll be careful with your money.
But I want you to know you can trust us to care for the environment as well.
That’s why this year the first of our many policy discussion documents released will be on the environment.
We know how important it is to Kiwis.
We’ve committed to working with the Government on a bipartisan Climate Commission to ensure policy decisions are enduring and comprehensive.
We’ll focus on cleaner water, protecting our fisheries, on our native species and iconic places, among other areas.
Economic growth and improving the environment can and must go hand in hand.
Sound environmental policies don’t mean we have to sacrifice our economy, and vice versa.
It requires us to be more innovative, more imaginative and more inventive.
National will be.
I am going to finish by circling back to the economy and the cost of living.
You hear a lot about the economy from National because we know a strong economy is how Kiwis get ahead.
We can’t get more kids into better schools, cheaper doctors’ visits, more elective surgeries and better protection of the conservation estate without a strong economy.
It’s also the foundation for improving living standards, creating jobs, raising incomes and protecting the environment.
As I said earlier, New Zealanders who work hard and contribute shouldn’t be taxed more than an effective and efficient government actually needs.
The Michael Cullen-led Tax Working Group will shortly report back. Its focus is taking more money off you.
Take a look at your next payslip. See how much tax you already pay.
Yet the Working Group – yes, another one – will likely tell most New Zealanders that they aren’t paying enough tax, that they are far too rich, and that a suite of new taxes, levies and charges should be applied.
This includes a Capital Gains Tax, which National will repeal.
But today I want to talk more specifically about income tax.
By 2022, New Zealanders on the average wage are expected to move into the top tax bracket.
That’s not fair, and it’s not right.
New Zealanders should not pay more tax every year even when their income isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of living.
In real terms people’s pay is going down even when living costs are going up.
And remember, this is on top of a Government which is also imposing a raft of new taxes and clearly sees the wallets of ordinary Kiwis as theirs to raid.
Over the next four years, New Zealanders will be paying almost $10,000 more per household in tax than they would have been under National.
The Government is taking more than it needs, only to waste billions.
So, in our first term, we will ensure New Zealanders keep more of what they earn to stay on top of rising costs such as higher prices for necessities like petrol, rent and electricity.
As well as cancelling the new taxes this Government has piled on, we won’t allow future governments to use inflation as an annual tax increase by stealth.
We will amend the Income Tax Act to make sure income taxes are adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living.
Within a year after every election, Treasury will advise the Government on how much the tax thresholds should be adjusted to account for inflation.
That means income tax thresholds will increase every three years to stay in line with the cost of living.
The first change will be in 2021 and relate to the tax years of 2018, 2019 and 2020.
We will include a veto clause so the Government of the day can withhold the threshold changes in the rare circumstances that there is good reason to do so.
But it will have to explain that decision to New Zealanders.
What do these changes mean for you?
Well, assuming inflation of two per cent, someone on the average wage would be $430 a year better off after the first adjustment. After the second they’d be $900 a year better off and after the third $1,400.
A family with two earners - for example, one earning $80,000 and the other $40,000 - would be $600 better off a year after the first adjustment, about $1,300 after the second and $1,900 by the third.
That’s more of their own money in their own bank accounts.
The first adjustment would prevent Kiwis from paying an extra $650m a year in tax based on today’s estimates.
We can afford that by managing the books prudently and spending wisely.
We will also do more and I’ll continue talking about our plans between now and next year’s election.
When Labour and NZ First took power, they inherited a booming economy with growing surpluses, strong wage growth, reducing inequalities and more kids succeeding in education than ever before.
New Zealanders were coming home.
And yet we’ve just ended the first full year of this Government with weaker GDP, wages struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living and New Zealand families finding it hard to get ahead.
There is a lot of cost, uncertainty and risk.
And worryingly, there is no sense that the Government knows what to do. They certainly don’t have a plan.
I don’t want New Zealand to again become a place of lost opportunities where tens of thousands of Kiwis feel they need to live overseas, away from the country and people they love.
Over the coming year my team and I will let you know exactly what a National Government would do to boost the prosperity and security of New Zealanders in a challenging world.
You will see our plan. Today, I have outlined how tax indexation is part of it, because we know Kiwis should keep more of what they earn to stay on top of the rising cost of living.
Going into the next election, New Zealanders deserve a clear choice. National will provide it.
National Leader Simon Bridges has appointed Paula Bennett to the new position of Spokesperson for Drug Reform as the Government pushes ahead with its agenda of drug decriminalisation, to signal National’s commitment to holding them to account.
Mr Bridges has also appointed Amy Adams Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Mitchell Spokesperson for Pike River Re-entry and Nick Smith Spokesperson for Crown-Maori Relations, filling the positions formerly held by outgoing MP Chris Finlayson, while Shane Reti will take over the Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment portfolio from Mrs Bennett.
Incoming MP Agnes Loheni will be appointed the Associate Spokesperson for Small Business and Associate Pacific Peoples roles when she enters Parliament next month.
“New Zealanders expect their Government to be firm but fair. When it comes to drugs we need a well-thought through and evidence-based approach to drug reform that balances public safety with the need to help vulnerable people.
“This Government’s confused and dangerous commitment to decriminalisation and its soft approach to crime shows it’s not up to that task.
“Our work creating a comprehensive medicinal cannabis regime shows we are and that’s why I’ve created this new portfolio which will coordinate the work being done across our policy teams in health, education and law and order.
“It will build on our significant work in Government around the Meth Action Plan, cracking down on drug dealers and stopping trafficking at our borders, while ensuring those who need rehabilitation get access to the best services.
“There is no better person than former Police Minister Paula Bennett who has a thorough understanding of the issues to coordinate this work.
“To allow Mrs Bennett to focus on this important task, Dr Reti will take over the Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment portfolio. Through his excellent work on National’s Medicinal Cannabis Bill and in his Cyber Security portfolio, he has shown he will do an exacting job in holding this Government to account and progressing National’s plans.
“As a lawyer and former Justice Minister Amy Adams will also prove a formidable Attorney-General, Mark Mitchell is doing an excellent job as our Justice spokesperson and his appointment reflects the fact the Justice Minister holds the Pike River Re-entry portfolio while Dr Smith’s appointment to the Crown-Maori portfolio aligns with his work in State Services and will ensure the Government is held to account.”
The Prime Minister must dismiss Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha after a damning report from the Independent Police Conduct Authority, National Leader Simon Bridges says.
“It was Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who appointed Wally Haumaha. She now has to take responsibility and dismiss the man that she appointed to one of the most senior and powerful roles in the country.
“It would be unconscionable for Mr Haumaha to stay in this constitutionally important role given the seriousness of the IPCA findings.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has congratulated the next Chief Justice of New Zealand, the Honourable Justice Helen Winkelmann.
“Justice Winkelmann has had a distinguished career on the bench since 2004, following a lengthy career as a litigator specialising in insolvency and commercial litigation. She served as Chief High Court Judge between 2010 and 2015, when she was elevated to the Court of Appeal.
“New Zealanders can have confidence that Justice Winkelmann will continue the fine tradition of Chief Justices in New Zealand upholding the rule of law and ensuring due process.
“I would also like to pay tribute to the outgoing Chief Justice, the Right Honourable Dame Sian Elias.
“To preside over the judiciary for almost two decades is a remarkable achievement, and jurisprudence in New Zealand has developed significantly over her time as Chief Justice.”
The Government plans to squeeze an extra $17.7 billion in tax out of ordinary New Zealanders in the next four years even as the economy slows, meaning it will take a bigger bite out of our national pie, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“The Treasury has trimmed its economic growth forecasts through until 2023 and ordinarily that would see the amount of tax pouring into the Government’s coffers slow as well. But the Government wants more of everything, so New Zealanders get less.
“We’ve heard a lot from the coalition about ‘transformational Government’. Now we know it means higher taxes, lower growth and households worse off.
“Why does this Government think it is OK to take more money out of New Zealanders’ wallets at the same time as their living costs such as rent, electricity and fuel are rising?
“The Government isn’t content with the raft of extra taxes and costs it has imposed in its first year and clearly sees the back pockets of ordinary Kiwis as theirs to raid. As a result New Zealanders will be paying $17.7 billion more in taxes compared to what they would be paying under a National Government. That’s almost $10,000 per household.
“New Zealand families are already having to make each dollar stretch further. The last thing they need is a Government continually adding to household costs, especially by an administration with a track record of wasteful spending.
“The size of the waste is significant, including $2.8 billion wasted on its failed fees-free tertiary education policy and $280 million so far on reviews and working groups.
“Poor Government decisions make it harder for New Zealanders and place our strong economic performance at risk. We need to get back on track before things go wrong and we miss out on the opportunities created by hard-working Kiwis over the last nine years.”
New figures released by National show that since being sworn in, the Government has announced 206 reviews and working groups, or one approximately every two days, at a cost of almost $700,000 dollars a day, National Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The Government has abandoned New Zealanders and delegated the job of governing to officials, think tanks, consultants and former politicians while it focuses on tidying up after itself and cashing its coalition negotiation cheques,” Mr Bridges says.
“This is a Government whose parties had three terms – nine years – to develop their own ideas, but they’re now farming the thinking out to others and charging the taxpayer as they do.
“The Government has no plans for growing the strong economy it inherited, or for improving the lives of New Zealanders. Rather than having a plan and a vision for New Zealand it’s focused on keeping the Coalition together and treading water while we wait for the ever-growing list of reviews and working groups to report back with instructions.
“Meanwhile taxpayers are forking out half a million dollars a day to pay for this Government’s laziness.
“The total cost so far is around $280 million but it is set to be much higher. The Government doesn’t know the cost of 79 of their reviews, so taxpayers could be looking at a $450 million bill. At a time when cost of living is on the rise, rents are going up, and more taxes and regulations are being piled on, New Zealanders don’t need this wasteful spending as they feel the pinch at Christmas time.
“It is flabby spending. National would cut the waste, stop mulching trees and rolling out free fees, and invest taxpayer dollars in a more considered, targeted way. Savings from these reviews alone could fund the Roxburgh children’s village for the next 90 years, end the teacher strikes, fund 5,600 cochlear implants or axe the regional fuel tax.
“Kiwis can go into this Christmas knowing that only National will be doing the hard yards all summer to hold this Government-of-missed-opportunities to account. We’ll do the work so we’re ready should we earn the right to govern again in 2020.”
National would pull New Zealand out of the UN’s Global Compact on Migration because of its potential to restrict New Zealand’s ability to set its own migration and foreign policy, National Leader Simon Bridges says.
"National is supportive of global action on major issues and of migration into New Zealand because it brings skills, capital and connections and makes New Zealand a better, more diverse place. And we support the ability for New Zealanders to travel and live and work overseas should they choose.
“But immigration policy is solely a matter for individual countries and must take account of their individual circumstances – and New Zealand’s policies are already held up as international best practice. There is no automatic right to migrate to another country without that country’s full agreement, a view which the United Nation’s Global Compact on Migration, set to be signed next week, seeks to counter.
“While not binding, the Compact could restrict the ability of future governments to set immigration and foreign policy, and to decide on which migrants are welcome and which aren’t. While National is the party most open to immigration, we cannot accept this.
“This Government’s own immigration policy is weak and confused, including its unfulfilled campaign promises to slash immigration. Signing up to this only clouds things further – like its working groups the Government appears to be relying on the UN to set its migration policy rather than making its own decisions.
“While a number of countries are pulling out of the agreement as the extent of its potential impact on the decision-making of individual countries is realised, our Government is refusing to outline its own position.
“For these reasons, National will not be supporting this agreement and we will reverse the decision if this Government signs up to it.”
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.