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Speech: ACT Leader's Budget Address

David Seymour - MP for Epsom, ACT Leader

Mr Speaker, many countries have faced the challenge of rebuilding from destruction. There are two basic strategies they can take.

One is the path this Government is going down. It’s trying to plan the economy from the Beehive. I have no doubt that the MPs on the government benches are sincere. They really do believe they can get New Zealanders back to work by spending money better than the people who earned it.

The other path is an outward looking recovery led by private sector job growth.

The record of history is crystal clear. Countries that look inward for jobs and growth find neither. Those that replace the private plans of five million people with their own blunt plan make us poorer, not richer.

This Budget throws so much money at so many problems. By doing so, it will make us poorer, not richer.

The problem is poor-quality spending. Look at some of the problems this Government is throwing money at.

There is $5 billion for KiwiBuild 2, or Kainga Ora, as they call it. You’d think they might have learned from the first time.

There is a $4.6 billion blow out on trains and ferries. That’s Winston Peters’ bauble this year. If you thought he was outdated, now the Government is buying boats and trains.

There’s $1 billion for some New Zealanders to go bush. Some of them will plant pine trees. Some of them will eradicate wilding pines. Others will try to cull wallabies without the centrefire semi-automatic firearms that the Government banned, or will they be exempt?

There’s a $400 million tourism fund, but the Tourism Minister’s press release tells us nothing about how it will be spent. That’s not surprising when the Tourism Minister told the Epidemic Response Committee that he cannot define tourism.

There is over $200 million dollars to send the message that parents are not responsible for feeding their own children.

Sadly, those kids will learn the hard way that there is no such thing as a free lunch. They will grow up in a New Zealand with triple the debt we had just a year ago.

Public debt will rise by $124 billion, or $70,000 per household.

They will pay for this Government that cannot imagine a better response than throwing money at every problem.

The other problem is what’s not in this budget.

There’s no focus on public health or smart borders.

Our economy was devastated by a blunt and expensive response to COVID-19. We cannot afford to do it again. We should be asking Taiwan how they managed only six deaths among 23 million people and no lockdown.

The number one initiative in this Budget should have been investment in public health and smart borders so the private sector can get back to work with certainty.

The Treasury forecasts assume there is no COVID-19 restrictions by April next year. That’s hopeful! With no priority given to a public health upgrade and smart borders, it is verging on delusional.

ACT’s Alternative Budget proposes tax cuts. There are two ways to deliver fiscal stimulus to the economy. One is to tax, borrow, and spend. The other is to take less in the first place.

ACT’s Alternative Budget delivers $6 billion in stimulus by cutting GST to 10 percent for one year. It delivers a permanent $3 billion a year middle-income tax cut.

The other thing that’s missing is a plan to unleash private sector job growth. The commitment to business support is measured in the millions, the Government’s pet projects in the billions.

There is no commitment to balancing the books. The Treasury forecast not only tells us the Government will borrow $124 billion, it tells us that it will still be running deficits in 2024.

ACT’s Alternative Budget would not only cut taxes but balance the budget by 2024. We would borrow ‘only’ $40 billion, saving New Zealanders $100 billion in debt.

There’s also no commitment to dealing with the red tape and regulation that holds New Zealanders back. Take the Resource Management Act. The Government recently discovered what the private sector already knows: it’s damn difficult to get stuff done under the RMA.

So the Government has a plan: it is going to exempt its own projects from the RMA.

ACT’s Alternative Budget replaces the RMA with the Productivity Commission’s proposal, Better Urban Planning.

To create a job, an employer has to take a chance. Employment carries costs and risks. Getting unemployment down rapidly in a fluid situation means lots of risks taken to create lots of jobs.

ACT’s Alternative Budget removes that risk by extending 90-day trials to 12 months and placing a three year moratorium on minimum wage increases.

Creating jobs needs capital. There is more capital overseas than in New Zealand. The Government’s decision to restrict foreign direct investment is devastating for countries trying to create jobs.

ACT’s Alternative Budget would lift restrictions on foreign direct investment from OECD countries so that the economy can get back to growth.

Mr Speaker, there are two roads for any country facing economic destruction.

This Government has chosen the path that has never worked anywhere. Turning inwards and trying to run the economy from the Beehive.

If it’s a bad strategy normally, it’s a terrible strategy with the Government we’ve got now.

This is the Government that has delivered just 0.3 percent of its flagship KiwiBuild programme.

Jacinda Ardern’s first promise as Labour leader, Auckland light rail, has now been put on hold.

Child poverty, the PM’s raison d'être in politics, has become worse on her watch.

Fees Free failed to increase the number of tertiary students.

It’s a bad idea for a competent Government to plan an economy, but it’s a terrible idea for this one to.

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