National congratulates Dame Annette King on her appointment as New Zealand's High Commissioner to Australia, National's Foreign Affairs and Trade Spokesperson, Todd McClay says.
"The role of High Commissioner in Australia is a very important one and Dame Annette certainly has the experience to build on our relationship with Australia and provide the care and maintenance that is needed.
"New Zealand’s relationship with Australia has floundered as a result of a number of unnecessary disagreements and mishandlings by the Labour-led Government.
"It will be important for our new High Commissioner to repair any damage that has been done over the last year. It is in the best interests of Australia and New Zealand that our two governments continue to have respect for each other and work closely together.
"I am pleased that the strong objections to political appointments previously held by Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters have been dropped.
“Given the importance of our membership of the Five Eyes, Mr Peters should in future not rule out similar appointments of effective and appropriate people to maximise the influence that membership of the Five Eyes offers New Zealand.”
The Government should be doing all it can to ensure New Zealand reaps the benefits of the boom in tourism but the only firm decision in its draft tourism strategy is to impose another tax, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Support for tourism is about priorities and while the strategy outlines some worthy goals to boost the value of tourism it is short on immediate action that the sector needs.
“New taxes on visitors, working groups and reviews simply aren’t the answer for a sector which welcomed a record 3.8 million visitors last year and needs Government action now.
“A new tax isn’t a silver bullet for the tourism sector. It won’t see any new revenue from the tax for years and with Australians excluded, 40 per cent of our international visitors won’t have to pay the levy anyway.
“It’s important to put the new tax in context. Visitors already contribute over $2 billion a year in GST and other taxes. The visitor tax would raise $80 million but that’s money visitors could otherwise spend in the local communities and businesses it purports to help.
“The last National Government offered tangible support with the Tourism Infrastructure Fund established last year and a $76 million package to support our walking tracks and huts. This was achieved without sticking a tax on visitors at our border.
“Those policies are still delivering value to the sector across the country.
“Given the size and value of the tourism industry, we need a Government that is serious about investing in projects and infrastructure now. It is lazy governance to kick for touch with a working group and invent another tax.”
The Government needs to give an assurance that no New Zealand taxpayer money will be used by the Papua New Guinea Government to buy 40 Maseratis and hundreds of other luxury vehicles for APEC next month, Nationals Foreign Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“It would be extremely concerning if any of the $15 million New Zealand has given to PNG to help it host the APEC leaders meeting was used in this way and taxpayers have a right to more detailed information on exactly what this money will be spent on.
“The Government needs to give us an assurance it won’t be on the luxury cars which PNG has confirmed it will buy.
“It is important that APEC is being hosted by a Pacific Island nation, and as a neighbour New Zealand should support PNG to ensure it is a success.
“However, at a time when taxpayers are being asked to provide hundreds of millions of dollars more assistance to Pacific Island countries, the Government needs to demonstrate that additional aid will be used properly to improve the lives of people in these countries.
“Luxury vehicles won’t do that and the Government needs to be clear it won’t happen.”
Trade Minister David Parker needs to secure an exemption for New Zealand from recent American steel and aluminium tariffs from his trip to Washington DC, National’s Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump imposed a 25 per cent tariff on all steel and a 10 per cent tariff on all aluminium imports into the United States. This made it much harder for New Zealand steel and aluminium exporters to get their product into the world’s largest market and sets a concerning precedent in our trade relationship with the US.
“New Zealand is a strong trading nation that values open and constructive dialogue with its trading partners. The United States is New Zealand’s third largest trading partner, however, the threat of escalating tariffs remain an issue of concern for our exporters.
“Australia has already been granted an exemption from these steel and aluminium tariffs following a visit to Washington by their Trade Minister.
“It is in the best interests of both New Zealand and the United States we also receive the same treatment as Australia and that the additional steel and aluminium tariffs are removed.
“Tariffs hurt global trade and New Zealand’s overall economy, so the Trade Minister must come back from his trip with a guarantee that New Zealand steel and aluminium exports will be exempt from these US tariffs.”
The passing of the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement at Parliament today shows National was right to push ahead with the original deal in the face of significant opposition, National’s spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Trade Todd McClay says.
“The revised TPP will have huge benefits for New Zealand exporters. If National did not do the hard work of negotiating the original TPP deal, there would be no agreement for Parliament to pass today.
“As the many submissions made on the Bill show, this revised-TPP is essentially the same deal that National negotiated and delivered. It delivers exactly the same benefits for exporters.
“Being part of the TPP and its revision means New Zealand businesses and exporters will have greater access to hundreds of millions of consumers around the world. It also puts our exporters on a more level playing field and we know that when given those opportunities, they will succeed.
“New Zealand has been a leader in pushing for this revolutionary deal since 2008, and was the first country to push for the TPP to live on after the US withdrew. It was this engagement and negotiation with 10 remaining countries that ensured New Zealand exporters would have unprecedented access to Japan and other important markets.
“Despite slight changes, the revised-TPP remains a high-quality deal. That is why the National Party pledged its parliamentary support to help get the agreement over the line.
“Hundreds and hundreds of officials and trade representatives have dedicated the last decade to this agreement. The National Opposition would like to express our sincere thanks to them, members of the business community and the public for their ongoing support of TPP and the jobs it will create.
“I would also like to thank Labour and New Zealand First for going back on their opposition, hanging up their protest signs, and finally voting for the TPP.
“By being part of this multilateral agreement, we have shown that free trade is still possible, and important, in a time of increasing protectionism around the world. It was vital that this deal received bi-partisan support to show New Zealand’s commitment to free trade.”
The secret sale of the Rotorua Rescue Helicopter is a disgrace and the Philips Rescue Trust and the Government must urgently confirm their commitment to a Rescue helicopter and base in Rotorua, Rotorua MP Todd McClay says.
“The future of the Rotorua Rescue Helicopter and base was cast into doubt earlier this year and local people deserved to be kept informed of what’s happening.
“A Government call for tender for rescue services which excluded Rotorua prompted around 500 people to attend a public meeting at the Rescue Helicopter base to express support for the retention of the a rescue helicopter and base in Rotorua.
“The closure of the Rotorua base was proposed by the Government in its tender document. Despite hollow assurances from the Labour-led Government, Rotorua is still not mentioned in the tender document and I am extremely worried that our base is set to close.
“The news is not good for Rotorua. The Tauranga Rescue chopper has recently been upgraded and there is industry talk that the Taupo chopper is also soon to be upgraded. The Rotorua helicopter has been sold.
“The Rotorua Rescue helicopter is one of the busiest recue choppers in the country. It has saved many lives and has very strong support from the Rotorua community. The helicopter and rescue equipment was purchased from the hard work and generosity of local people and local charitable trusts. For our helicopter to be secretly sold with the money being spirited out of town in the dead of night is disgraceful.
“I understand the old Tauranga chopper is also for sale. Rotorua doesn’t want Tauranga’s castoffs, that the Trust could not sell it is its problem and not Rotorua’s.
“Local people will be very angry to learn that their chopper has been sold. If the Rotorua base is closed lives will be lost.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern needs to issue an urgent written statement condemning Russia for its involvement in the Salisbury nerve agent attack before we are out of step with our closest friends and allies, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Foreign Minister Winston Peters’ statement simply accepting the ‘conclusions’ of the investigation last week is unacceptable. The Prime Minister must now explain why her Government failed to act more decisively last week before a diplomatic intervention by the British Government was needed.
“The UK was left guessing over our support prompting British Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field to tell media that the British Government ‘very much hope’ that the New Zealand Government would ‘be able to condemn in unequivocal terms, what has happened’ as other countries in the international community had made ‘very robust statements of support.’
“The United Kingdom is one of our closest friends and allies. A United Kingdom Police investigation has now confirmed ‘Russia’s culpability for the heinous military-grade nerve agent attack on UK soil.’
“This attack was an appalling, violent breach of the sovereignty of one of New Zealand’s closest friends. The Government’s written statement on this violent attack falls woefully short and is embarrassing.
“The Prime Minister needs to tidy this mess up quickly and explain why her Government continues to be at odds over its Russia policy.”
The detention of respected TVNZ journalist Barbara Dreaver is unacceptable and Foreign Minister Winston Peters must seek assurances that no other journalists are detained in Nauru for doing their job, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Freedom of the press is a fundamental part of any democracy and journalists must be free to tell important stories.
“Mr Peters must seek assurances from the Nauru Government that other members of the media will not be under threat of detention or interference.”
One of the Government’s infamous 140 working groups has, incredibly come back with a recommendation to have five more reviews, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis’s Responsible Camping Working Group has reported back not with a plan but with a recommendation the Government reviews the Freedom Camping Act, the compliance regime, the administration system, the camping-grounds regulations and the ‘responsible camping rules’.
“That’s right. Five more reviews leading us to the extraordinary situation where we have working groups calling for working groups.
“In a damning indictment on its lack of work in Opposition this Government came to power with so few ideas it’s launched 140 working groups and inquiries costing $170-odd million, to tell it what to do.
“Now it turns out not even those working groups have any answers and decisions are being kicked further down the road, with Mr Davis saying his ‘cross-Government plan of action’ is still off somewhere in the never-never. We’re talking two years before any major legislative change will bring relief to most popular tourist destinations, and to the communities in those areas.
“Worryingly, Mr Davis also says even those recommendations the Responsible Camping Working Group did make won’t all be ready in time for this summer’s peak influx of tourists.
“That will be hugely disappointing for a sector which generates $14.5 billion of export earnings.
“This is symptomatic of a Government that loves to set up reviews and working groups rather than actually get on and do the job. At a time when businesses are crying out for certainty this Government gives them less.
“What is Mr Davis actually doing? Tourism is a full-time profession and it deserves more than a part-time minister.
“In the meantime, the Government could pick up National MP Anne Tolley’s Freedom Camping Bill which would prohibit Freedom Camping more than 200 metres from public toilet facilities, provide more organisations with the right to restrict freedom camping, and provide for instant fines that have been issued to be collected by rental car companies. That will make an immediate difference.”
The Government’s ‘Trade for All’ agenda is simply a rehash of National’s work on trade and won’t make up for plummeting business confidence caused by the Government’s anti-growth policies, National’s Trade spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Trade for All is nothing more than a shameless rebranding of National’s Trade Agenda 2030 which was aimed at creating opportunities for our exporters to compete on the world stage.
“But while National was consulting on Trade Agenda 2030 with businesses, exporters and the public Labour, NZ First and Green MPs were marching in the streets against the TPP.
“While the Government’s backflip on trade is welcome, it won’t be enough to turn around New Zealand’s worst business confidence levels in ten years.
“We know this is a direct result of bad policies like raising taxes, restricting foreign investment and axing oil and gas exploration – yet the Government refuses to acknowledge that, choosing instead to lecture businesses over their supposed bias.
“By the time National left office, negotiations were underway with the revised TPP, Pacific Alliance, and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and preparation for a free trade agreement with the European Union was in its final stages.
“The UK had confirmed that New Zealand would be first cab off the rank for a new FTA and pre-negotiation meetings between Ministers and officials had commenced. The US had also confirmed they were open to talks.
“Upgrades to our FTAs with China and Singapore also were underway and expected to be completed by now – though those have both been delayed, or perhaps worse, by this Government’s reckless attitude to our trading partners.
“The Government is in panic mode. It will take more than a rehash of National’s work to turn around the lowest levels of business confidence in a decade.”