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.”
National’s Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson Todd McClay has welcomed the United Kingdom’s decision to launch public consultations of a NZ-UK FTA but says a negotiation must also ensure better access for New Zealand workers and tourists to the UK.
“The UK market offers huge opportunity for Kiwi exporters. As New Zealand’s fifth largest trading partner with $6 billion worth of two-way trade annually, securing a high-quality FTA is important for our businesses and exporters and that’s why we worked so hard in Government to get it started.
“The UK first signalled that New Zealand would be a ‘first cab off the rank’ for a post-Brexit FTA in March of last year. The fact that New Zealand has been singled out as a priority shows we were right to engage with the UK Government so quickly after the Brexit vote.
“The Government must make the most of the opportunity a trade negotiation presents. In particular it will be important that Kiwis gain better work visa access to the UK, and improved access for agricultural products.
“I also welcome the UK’s interest in joining the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
“Growing the membership of the TPP increases the value and benefits for the millions of people in TPP-countries.
“The TPP is a high quality deal structured to allow other countries to join. I encourage the UK Government to make the most of this opportunity.”
Foreign Minister Winston Peters needs to put Kiwi landlords before foreign diplomats and tell representatives of foreign governments to pay their bills in New Zealand.
“The public will rightly to be appalled to learn the Ministry of Foreign Affairs used taxpayer-funded lawyers to help a foreign diplomat overturn a $20,000 judgement in favour of a Kiwi landlord, after the diplomat left the landlord $20,000 out of pocket.
“We expect New Zealand diplomats to pay their way overseas and foreign diplomats should pay their bills in New Zealand.
“For Mr Peters to hide behind diplomatic immunity when other countries around the world have carve outs to ensure bills are paid is not good enough.
“Mr Peters has recently said that the landlord should have been aware of the risks of letting their house to a diplomat, saying the principle of ‘buyer beware’ was to be considered. Whose side is he on?
“This Kiwi landlord deserves better from his government. Mr Peters should urgently inform all foreign embassies in New Zealand that their immunity will not cover private sector residential rents so that no further Kiwi landlords are out of pocket.
“Mr Peters must put Kiwi landlords before foreign diplomats and do so quickly.”
National’s Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson Todd McClay has welcomed the formal launch of NZ-EU FTA negotiations and says its success will be judged on greatly improved access for our agricultural exporters to the EU market.
“The European Union market offers huge opportunities for Kiwi exporters. As many of our competitors have entered into free trade agreements with the EU our ability to compete there, and to sell to its 500 million consumers, has reduced.
“That must be addressed and the Government must pull out all the stops to get a high quality deal done as quickly as possible.
“It is also important that this is a modern, fair and inclusive trade deal. To be inclusive smaller businesses and service providers must benefit from better trade rules while dairy, beef and lamb exporters must get a much better deal than they currently have.
“Many years of work have led to today’s launch of negotiations and there is significant expectation from New Zealand exporters that the Government will deliver tangible benefits from this negotiation.
“Both the Prime Minister and the Trade Minister need to reinforce New Zealand’s commitment to a FTA with the EU, and ensure a high quality deal is produced for New Zealand and New Zealand exporters.”
Labour has turned its tax sights on tourists with its proposal to impose new taxes up to $35 each on visitors coming to New Zealand, National’s Tourism Spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“There is no reason to make New Zealand a less attractive destination when it is already expensive to get here,” says Mr McClay.
“Thanks to Labour’s new tax, the cost for a family of four travelling here will jump by $166, taking into account the increases in both new international visitor levy and increased visa costs.
“This is a Government that loves to tax. We’ve seen new regional fuel taxes, petrol excise tax increases, the cancellation of National’s tax cuts for families, and now a new tax on tourists.
“In last month’s Budget, Labour increased future operating allowances by $5 billion. It already has plenty of money available for new tourism infrastructure if it chose to use it wisely.
“Instead, our regions hosting tourists have to wait until late next year to see anything from this Government.
“New Zealand’s reputation as a fair destination are under threat from Kelvin Davis’ vague and contradictory proposal to sock tourists with additional taxes.”
In a breath-taking display of incompetence, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis refused to answer questions on his $170 million tourism portfolio during a select committee estimates hearing today, National’s Tourism Spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Mr Davis has proven exactly why he is considered one of the weakest links in an already struggling Government, with what was possibly the worst performance of any Minister in any select committee ever.
“It’s an insult to the tourism industry that he would not answer simple questions about his plans, and disrespectful to taxpayers that he doesn’t believe he needs to be accountable for spending $170 million of their money.
“Mr Davis must be recalled to the committee and answer questions about how he will spend this money and what the taxpayer can expect from him.
“The New Zealand tourism industry and the 188,000 people it employs deserve far better than a Minister who is not across the detail of his portfolio and, worse than that, doesn’t seem to care.
“The Prime Minister needs to reign Mr Davis in before he does serious damage to New Zealand’s tourism industry and send him back to the committee to answer important expenditure questions.”
The Ardern-Peters Government’s employment law changes will cause significant problems for New Zealand’s tourism industry, National’s Tourism Spokesperson Todd McClay and Workplace Relations Spokesperson Scott Simpson say.
“The tourism sector has rightly put its hand up and said these reforms will make it harder to sustain and grow the sector,” Mr McClay says.
“In particular they have singled out the rest and meal breaks provisions as completely inflexible and unworkable.
“This is a sector made up of a huge variety of businesses that are busy at different times of the day and different days of the week. Requiring everyone to down tools at the same time is impractical for a service sector dealing with international visitors.
“It’s also telling that the tourism industry identifies that the 90 day trial changes will work in exactly the opposite direction than the Government intends,” Mr Simpson says.
“This sector, which employs over eight per cent of New Zealanders, is known for taking on young and new workers and giving them their first jobs. Surely that’s what the Government wants.
“When tourism operators say the law change will make it riskier and less likely for the operators to take a chance on people on the fringe of the workforce, they should be listened to.
“The test will be whether the Government chooses to listen, or whether they have decided they’ll ram these changes through regardless of whether they are good for our country and our workers.”
“The tourism sector is the largest export industry in New Zealand and it’s made up of a huge number of mostly small businesses,” Mr McClay says.
“If they haven’t earned the right to have their concerns acted on by central Government, then who has?”