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Speech: National’s Economic Plan For 2020

Global situation

The world is an uncertain and difficult place right now. More uncertain and difficult than it has been for some while.

Trade wars and geopolitics define the relationship between China and the United States and threaten our economic stability and our ability to sell New Zealand to the world.

Recent tensions in the Middle East have seen our friends across the western world call for cooler heads to prevail, but the threat to security and stability in the region remains.

Just across the Tasman, our friends are experiencing devastating bush fires which will have impacts for them, for us and our economy.

And coronavirus is both a global health emergency and an economically significant event – more and more serious the longer it continues.

New Zealand is by no means immune.

But our growth has begun slowing before we even start with these international factors.

New Zealanders are doing it tougher, facing more tax, cost and red tape, our economy is slowing, and as a result New Zealanders are worse off.

At a time of global uncertainty, when international events have direct impacts on our way of life, we cannot underestimate the need for a strong economy led by a competent government with a track record of delivering to protect and buffer us.

By most measures, we should be doing much better.

Our commodity prices are high and our terms of trade are near the best they have ever been. From our primary sector through to our technology and innovative sectors, New Zealand should be booming and the envy of the world.

We should be a confident, aspirational nation that is ready to tackle the global challenges head on and succeed.

In short, we should be in a much better situation relative to global uncertainties and headwinds.

The question I’m asking Jacinda Ardern is - why aren’t we?

The Economy

Because Jacinda Ardern’s Government has failed to deliver on its promises, has piled on the tax, cost and red tape, made things more uncertain domestically at a time of global uncertainty, and as a result New Zealand has become a country of lost opportunities.

The economy is all about its people.

The workers, the business owners, the self-employed, the volunteers and the retirees.

They deserve a government that does what it says it will, that delivers with certainty and removes barriers and burdens like tax, cost and red tape.

Three years ago our economy was growing at nearly four per cent a year and we are now almost half of that and falling.

We have slipped to the seventh lowest GDP per capita growth in the OECD. We are behind countries like Chile, Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Spain and even Greece.

Yes, I said seventh lowest spot.

When we slip so far down the chain, it’s having a real impact on you and your family – particularly as we move into global turbulence.

The protection isn’t there – just the tax, cost, red tape and uncertainty.

This all means it’s harder to get ahead, it means that promotion or a pay rise might take longer to get, it’s harder for you and your family to plan for the future, and to save. Indeed for increasing numbers it’s harder to even pay the next bill and stay afloat.

In short, back pockets are shrinking. It’s harder to get ahead under Jacinda Ardern.

In fact, right now, someone on the average wage in New Zealand is almost $4000 a year worse off thanks to Jacinda Ardern’s Government.

The median rent is up $2600 a year because of the Government’s added taxes and regulations on landlords.

Higher petrol taxes have made it $200 a year more expensive for the typical person to fill up their car.

And cancelled tax cuts have cost the average earner over $1000 a year.

Under the last National Government, your after-tax income grew twice as fast as Australia. Yet under Jacinda Ardern’s NZ, they’ve grown slower than Australia.

In comparison, if our GDP per capita were as good as Australia’s, the average Kiwi would be 35 per cent richer.

That doesn’t happen by accident, it doesn’t take a country the size of Australia to achieve it. It happens when you have a strong economy focussed on you. Led by a competent government with a track record of delivering.

As Economic Development Minister and Associate Finance Minister, I saw how real this is.

Whereas two years ago companies were taking on new staff to keep up with demand, they’re now laying people off because they don’t have the workers, and more often than was the case, the work either and the Government has piled tax, cost and red tape so the risk isn’t worth the reward for businesses.

The Government’s own data shows this.

Job growth has dropped from the 10,000 new jobs a month under National to less than 1000 a month.

In less than two years, Jacinda Ardern’s Government has taken 15 years of projected surpluses and taken us into deficit.

And I hate to tell you the bad news but once a Labour government is in deficit it doesn’t get back to surplus.

All of this matters because it affects you and your back pocket.

It’s about your financial security and making sure you can look after your families in good times and bad.

It’s about you being able to live without worrying about the next bill, or paying for your next tank of petrol, or your next shopping trolley.

It’s about ensuring the future you dream of for your family becomes a reality.

It’s about building the roads and the public transport that gets you home on time at night.

It’s about schools and hospitals having the resources they need to teach your children and take care of your family.

It’s about police having the resources to deal with gangs and serious crime so you and your family are safe.

It’s about business feeling confident to take you on and give you a shot and then a pay rise.

It’s about getting up in the morning and seeing New Zealand ambitious and confident about itself again.

I will not accept this is as good as it gets. We should be doing much better.

Hopes and wishes are one thing, but kiwis deserve certainty and a government that gets things done.

National’s focus is simple and resolute.

1. We will keep taxes and red tape low and grow incomes to help with your cost of living

2. We will be responsible managers of the economy

3. We will focus on growing the economy for all

4. We will invest more in core public services like health and education

5. Finally, we will create more jobs and opportunities for all New Zealanders

To do this, today I am announcing five key measures that I want the sixth National Government’s first term to be measured by. They are things that matter to Kiwis because they impact us in our everyday lives.

1. New Zealand’s economic growth is back to at least three per cent per annum.

2. New Zealand’s growth rate per person is in the top half of the OECD

3. We are reducing the after-tax income gap with Australia

4. More New Zealanders feel they can reach their potential at home, rather than overseas

5. We have revived business confidence so that businesses feel like they can take more risks and create opportunities for you and your family

Ultimately, it is what we will do that counts the most.

Over the next few months I will be announcing our comprehensive Economic Plan.

The five major planks to it are five packages on:

1. Tax relief

2. Regulation reduction

3. Infrastructure

4. Small Business

5. Families

Most of these won’t surprise you.

For instance, on tax - we have already announced our plans to index tax brackets to the cost of living, repeal the Auckland fuel tax, and introduce no new taxes.

But we recognise we need to do more.

We will announce our full tax plan that will see people on the average wage better off and keeping more of what they earn.

People on the average wage shouldn’t be paying almost 33 per cent in the dollar.

On regulation – you can’t pile more regulation, red tape and more tax and cost onto business like Jacinda Ardern’s Government has and expect New Zealand to succeed.

We have already promised to cut red tape and regulation. We will light a regulations bonfire in our first six months of government, and cut two regulations for every new one we create.

But we recognise we need to do more.

On infrastructure, we not only need to build the roads to get you and your family home on time, but invest in the social infrastructure our country needs in world class hospitals and schools.

We won’t be afraid to use the private sector to partner with government to deliver projects that matter to us all.

That means we can deliver more roads, more rail, more transport and more social infrastructure faster and better.

We will have new thinking on infrastructure and you will see a clear vision – and plan - from us of how we see New Zealand.

Unlike Labour, we won’t flip flop. We believe in infrastructure and have the competence and track record to do what we say we will, to actually deliver.

On small business, we have already promised to repeal employment law changes that this Government has made and restore 90-day trials to all businesses.

But your back pocket is hurting just as much as our families are. And we need to something about that as well.

Finally, on family incomes and cost of living. Tax relief is one part of how your family can get ahead.

We know we need to do more.

We need to raise incomes and get people into jobs and we need to attack the cost of living.

We need to stop rents rising because of bad government policy, petrol going through the roof because of more taxes and levies, and that a surprise bill doesn’t come at your expense on your next supermarket shop.

If we do all of this, not only will New Zealand be in a better position, but you and your family will be too. You’ll be better protected and buffered from international uncertainties with more money in your pocket.

I firmly believe we can do this.

But it’s in stark contrast to what’s happening right now.

When I hear about the company in Hawke’s Bay who are locking their tools up and laying off workers because the pipeline of infrastructure projects has dried up, that means less pay, fewer jobs and it means it’s less likely you’ll get home on time.

Through to the mum of a new born in Kawarau who for the first time in her life had to go to the foodbank to get help because Jacinda Ardern’s Government has raised taxes, costs and red tape and ripped money out from your back pocket.

She’s not the only one – demand for emergency grants has spiralled because people can’t fill their trolleys like they used to. City Missions are saying demand now is much worse than it ever used to be.

There is a clear choice this election between a government that has stumbled its way into deficit and debacle, and has us badly positioned because of the tax, cost, red tape and uncertainty as the world becomes more uncertain and difficult.

And National who has a plan and track record of getting New Zealand back on track, creating financial stability for you and your family and building a brighter future.

I firmly believe New Zealand’s best days lie ahead of us.

I know those tradies being laid off in Hawke’s Bay can help build the infrastructure we need to grow New Zealand and create opportunities.

The mum of the new-born wants to be able to not only fill her trolley but create the financial stability and dignity for her and her family that comes with a strong economy. One that creates opportunities for her baby and her family.

She shouldn’t have to make the choice between groceries or shoes, she should be making the choice of how many after school activities she wants to sign her child up to.

There are tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Kiwis up and down New Zealand who are worse off because Jacinda Ardern’s Government has left them behind.

We are a better country than these past two years. We are better than this.

Conclusion

National’s view is that the 2020s should be New Zealand’s decade.

It should be a time where our kids go to the best schools in the world, where we build the world class infrastructure and create more opportunities for New Zealanders, where we live in one of the safest countries in the world and we have the money to invest where it really matters to you and your family.

When I look forward to 2030, when my oldest son Emlyn will turn 18 and be preparing to take on the world on his own, I want New Zealand to be a place where he and all of his classmates have every opportunity to succeed, to be world beaters.

This Government is a failed experiment.

A failed experiment is fine when you’re in high school science, not when you’re running the country.

So now is our chance.

This election is the most important in a generation.

New Zealand can be better. Much better.

Our ambition as a country can never be too great for what we need to achieve. Because five million New Zealanders need a government that will put them and their families at the heart of everything we do.

Global uncertainties and headwinds need not hold us back as a nation if we have the leadership with the track record, competence, plan and ambition to see it through.

All we have to do is choose this.

I want to be a Prime Minister who delivers a strong, growing economy, world class public services, infrastructure that gets you and your family home on time, safety from gangs and serious crime, and a country that is once again ambitious and aspirational about its future and ready to tackle the challenges of the 2020s head on.

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