SPEECH: Simon Bridges - Our priorities for NZ families
SPEECH: Simon Bridges - Our priorities for New Zealand families
26 November 2018
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.