18 Feb 2024
Like many Kiwis across New Zealand, we were shocked to find, yet again, that the Government have not been doing their job to keep our border secure.
After all the carefully choreographed public reassurances and spin, we find that a border worker went without mandatory testing for six months, 450 workers in the last two weeks have not being regularly tested, and 85 of those 450 may have never been tested at all. And no one knew about it. Even though mandatory fortnightly testing has been legally required since September 2020.
More troubling is that the Border Worker Testing Register was only established in February 2021, it wasn’t compulsory (but will be from end of April), and the testing data only started to be analysed two weeks ago. And the only reason we know any of this is because Chris Bishop asked the right questions of officials in a Labour-led Health Select Committee hellbent on stopping him.
To end this complete and utter shambles, National has called for a return of the Epidemic Response Committee to ensure the Government, and its departments, are held to account for their promises, scrutinise their decisions, and help deliver better public policy and action.
Build, not tax, our way out of a housing shortage
We don’t share Labour’s view that you can tax your way out of a building shortage, so National have proposed an alternative solution that will urgently address the country’s land supply problem and help councils fund supporting infrastructure. Judith Collins has drafted legislation that would:
- Put in place emergency powers similar to those used to speed up house building in Canterbury following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
- Require all urban councils to immediately zone more land for housing – enough for at least 30 years of expected growth.
- Ensure the Resource Management Act (RMA) appeals process would be limited to ensure these new district plans can be completed and put in place rapidly.
- Provide a $50,000 infrastructure grant to all local authorities (urban and rural) for every new dwelling they consent above their five-year historical average.
Our Emergency Response (Urgent Measures) Bill gives councils permission – in fact it requires them – to say ‘yes’ to housing development and to get as much new housing built as they can as soon as is possible.
National’s approach worked in Christchurch where increased housing supply saw affordability improve, while deteriorating across the rest of the country. House prices rose by 7.4 per cent annually across New Zealand from July 2014 to March 2019, but only 2.9 per cent in Christchurch.
Despite Labour’s big promises prior to the 2017 election, the median house price jumped from $530,000 to $780,000 between October 2017 and February 2021, a 47 per cent increase in just over three years.
National is the party of home ownership. We are committed to sensible solutions that will get more New Zealanders into their own home without hitting them with more taxes.
Most ‘transformational’ Government failing across the board
Mental Health: wait times have ballooned under Labour. Despite making several announcements about their investments, the Government have severely underspent on their promises and in some cases has spent not a single dollar on announced projects.
The Tertiary Mental Health Fund, announced in July 2020, has not spent a single dollar, and officials are still in disagreement about who is responsible for the money, and how to use it.
Education: there are 17 schools where fewer than 20 per cent of students are attending school regularly in another illustration of the magnitude of New Zealand’s attendance crisis. Four schools have fewer than 10 per cent of their students attending regularly.
The research is unequivocal, student learning progress is set back every single day a student is absent. Chris Hipkins’ only response is to try to shift the blame to the previous Government. In his fourth year in the role, it’s time he took responsibility.
Social Development: The number of New Zealanders out of work has grown by more than 80,000. That is roughly the population of Palmerston North.
Most concerning is that the number of long-term beneficiaries is increasing; 119,073 people on Jobseeker have been on the benefit programme for more than 12 months. For comparison, fewer than 70,000 people in the December 2017 quarter.
The best path out of hardship is through paid employment. We need a Government that knows how to manage the economy so there are more job opportunities for New Zealanders.
Immigration: Labour members of the Education and Workforce Select Committee voted against Erica Stanford’s motion to open an inquiry into migrant issues caused by Covid-19, the closed border, and Immigration New Zealand’s policies.
At last week’s Reunite Families protest, National MPs heard the heart-breaking stories of maths teachers, engineers and nurses who had not seen their young children for more than 400 days.
Clearly Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has no desire to answer for his lack of action. He turned up for only 20 minutes of the half hour he was invited to brief the committee, and he and his officials provided no meaningful answers for split migrant families.
Hate speech laws a step too far
Reports of the Government’s proposed new hate speech laws go a step too far and risk sacrificing the freedoms New Zealanders enjoy. The reforms are supposedly including protections to every ground listed in Section 21 of the Human Rights Act. That includes political belief.
If these reforms pass, then insulting communications from a different political party could land you in jail. Freedom of speech in a democracy means having to tolerate the expression of diverse views, but there are some things like violent hate speech that are never acceptable.
We need to be treading carefully when legislating against people’s thoughts. It shouldn’t be the Government’s role to dictate what people can and can’t say. Free speech works in both ways, you are entitled to your views and others are entitled to criticise those views.
Legislation around hate speech can’t be rushed. We must do everything we can to suppress hate, but we can’t sacrifice our freedoms in doing so.
→ You can read more from Simon Bridges here.