Leader Of The Opposition’s Budget 2020 Speech
Mr Speaker, nothing in recent history has brought about such global disruption as the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kiwis have sacrificed much through the restrictions of lockdown and we can all be proud that the collective effort of everyone has, so far, worked well.
Today is not just about the Budget but about the direction of New Zealand more generally. Because the decisions we make now are generation defining ones that will affect the next decade and beyond.
This is about whether we have a society where people have jobs and growth or are saddled with uncertainty, debt and taxes.
Tens of thousands of Kiwis have already lost their jobs and similarly large numbers of businesspeople have had to close their doors for good.
These New Zealanders have, through no fault of their own, made a huge sacrifice because of Covid-19. You’ve lost your livelihoods and the nest eggs you worked so hard to build up.
National stands with you.
It’s important we take a moment to reflect on the last eight weeks. A lot of our response has gone incredibly well. New Zealanders have self-isolated and social distanced and sacrificed.
We’ve flattened the curve.
But just having a low number of Covid-19 cases isn’t success when we have tens of thousands of people out of work and more coming.
Figures from the Reserve Bank yesterday estimate there will be 150,000 job losses over the next six months. This Budget puts it at 160,000.
First, credit where credit is due. The Government's speed at getting the wage subsidy scheme up and running reduced early economic calamity.
Our lockdown, however, has proved excessively hard.
As I have said, workers and businesses have watched in horror as week after week of lockdown has washed away the foundations of the businesses they’ve spent years or decades building.
One thousand people a day are joining the dole queue since lockdown began and those numbers are increasing.
That is 1000 people a day who are losing their livelihoods. One thousand people a day who face a very uncertain future. One thousand people a day who don’t know how they are going to pay their bills.
Having gone hard and early on lockdown, we’ve gone soft and slow on our economy.
While lockdown was justified, we should have opened up the economy sooner to get New Zealand working again.
Having flattened the curve, we must not flatten the economy.
We must unlock New Zealand and get New Zealand working again.
Today is about the future, not the past. We need to lighten the lockdown and save jobs by getting cash to small businesses in need in the very short-term.
Even now, lockdown of a kind continues. Yes, at level 2 more workplaces can open but there are many rules and many workers and businesspeople still going backwards.
I say, Prime Minister, get Kiwis back to work unless there is an overwhelming reason not to.
Put more trust in everyday New Zealanders.
We recognise that we are in the deepest economic recession of our lives. That involves us ensuring we don’t make the economic disaster worse than it needs to be.
We must not spend more than we need to in poorly prioritised areas. After health and education, we need only ask one question with our taxpayer’s money: does it save jobs and create growth?
Big spending in the Budget should be focused on saving jobs because we understand the suffering from 1000 people a day going on the dole and businesses shutting up shop in record numbers.
It’s much easier to keep someone in a job than it is to later find them a job from the dole queue.
There is good in this Budget – the business support, the extension in a targeted way of the wage subsidy. But I note the priorities – $400 million dollars in tourism for 400,000 jobs, and yet rail gets $1.2 billion dollars for fewer than 4000 jobs.
I’m disappointed because I don’t see a plan for jobs and growth.
I see pet projects, whether they’re rail or pest eradication. They may have worth but added up, they mean colossal debt and don’t create sustainable jobs for workers from small to large businesses.
There’s an additional $140 billion dollars in debt, taking us to $200 billion dollars in debt in this country.
I note Bill English didn’t really ever have more than an extra billion dollars in debt in a Budget during his time as Finance Minister.
That’s an extra $140 billion dollars in debt, taking us to 54 per cent debt to our Gross Domestic Product – what we earn as a country – and private debt in this country, as we know, is high.
That is $80,000 per household – a second mortgage for New Zealanders that this Budget brings in. A hundred billion in deficits over four years.
And we know that as part of that $140 billion dollars is a $50 billion dollar Covid-19 response and recovery fund. Sadly, a $50 billion dollar slush fund is not a plan for jobs and growth.
Spending money is the easy part, but Grant Robertson doesn’t even know today how he will spend it all. That’s not a plan.
Much of it is not allocated, leaving more than $20 billion dollars to spray around prior to Election 2020.
We run the risk of turning a deep economic recession from a $50 billion dollar problem to a more than $140 billion one. Through poorly prioritised spending, the Government risks making this economic disaster worse than it needs to be.
We’ve seen it over this term. Three billion dollars on a Provincial Growth Fund that has created more jobs in Wellington than it has in Wairoa, or hundreds of millions on fees free, which has led to fewer students at universities.
That unavoidably means much more debt for everyday New Zealanders.
At $140 billion that’s $80,000 for every household around our country, and it all needs to be paid back. That in turn inevitably means far fewer choices, more taxes and less money in Kiwis’ pockets.
That is why we need discipline from the Government.
Only weeks ago the Prime Minister said we had stopped a wave of devastation, and thanks to the sacrifice of New Zealanders we have flattened the curve.
But today we see a tsunami of debt about to wash over us – the greatest debt burden in our country’s history by a long way.
Last week the Prime Minister wouldn’t rule out increasing income taxes or introducing new taxes. We know Labour is instinctively in favour of increasing taxes and now they have their chance to do so to Kiwi businesses and everyday New Zealanders.
Vote Labour and mark my words, this time next year the kindness will be gone and because of wasteful spending you’ll get more taxes and less money in your pocket.
Higher taxes are the last thing New Zealanders need right now but they are a certainty under a Labour-led Government.
What we need now is an economic recovery strategy that gets New Zealand working again rather than wayward spending, debt and taxes.
Every day that New Zealand isn’t working again the debt and the taxes increase.
Even now at level 2 where more workplaces can open, too many restrictions remain. There are too many bureaucrats angsting over every aspect of our lives and, along with politicians, making calls on our behalf.
You need to trust everyday New Zealanders, Prime Minister.
It’s relatively easy to go into lockdown. New Zealanders made the sacrifice. It’s much harder to lead an economy back into recovery but the best thing you can do is make the way back as simple as possible.
That takes an understanding of business and the private sector and a clear economic plan for jobs and growth.
Unfortunately, this Government has a poor record of delivering.
I worry about this Government’s ability to get us out of this crisis. I worry about its ability to come up with the economic plan and to execute it.
Remember, this is the same Government that failed to deliver KiwiBuild. The same Government that failed to deliver light rail down Dominion Rd. The same Government that has failed to build any new roads, and has in fact cancelled most of them.
This year it announced a lot and in this Budget we see a lot of announcements – and it will continue to make announcements but nothing is happening.
It’s one thing to have a Labour Government like this in good times, but not in a deep recession. We must not let the mismanagement, missteps, and missed opportunities continue.
National has the team with the track record of managing New Zealand through times of economic crisis whether it is the Global Financial Crisis or earthquakes.
We won’t keep on talking with working groups and committees and reports. We will trust everyday New Zealanders and competently, pragmatically implement our plan.
We have the competence and track record to do what we say we will.
National will deliver on its promises.
It was National that invested in Kiwis getting Ultra-Fast Broadband, which has made the past couple of months more bearable and productive.
It was National that started, and had a plan to continue, the Roads of National Significance.
It was National that built the Waterview Tunnel, and gave the green light to the City Rail Link in Auckland.
It was National that increased investment in R&D and science during its nine years to help accelerate innovation.
I was deeply involved in all those actions as were so many of my colleagues here.
New Zealanders want a Government that can deliver.
And I would back National’s Paul Goldsmith over Grant Robertson, Judith Collins over Phil Twyford, Todd McClay over Kelvin Davis, Michael Woodhouse over David Clark, Louise Upston over Carmel Sepuloni plus the rest of my team over any of Labour’s team any day of the week, Mr Speaker.
New Zealanders know National would get the job done and get New Zealand working again.
A National Budget would include a five-point plan back to progress for our country.
First, lighten the lockdown. Get Kiwis back to work unless there's an overwhelming reason not to.
Second, save jobs by getting cash to small businesses most in need. Last week we announced we would introduce an $8 billion GST cashback scheme for businesses. That would allow them to claim up to $100,000 GST refunds and up to $250,000 in low-interest loans.
That would do much more than the Government’s less targeted and less generous loan scheme, or anything announced in the Budget today, to save businesses and jobs in the private sector where we know it is small businesses through to large businesses that are the engine room of growth and a plan for prosperity in our country.
We also announced we would allow businesses to instantly deduct investments up to $150,000. That would incentivise investment that would help stimulate the economy as we recover from this crisis.
Third, we need common sense and pragmatism around the rules for the one or two metre world. It's one thing to allow bars and cafes to reopen but if the rules mean that you would just lose money, what’s the point?
Fourth – and I’m serious about this – we would unlock private sector investment, which is the key to growth and innovation.
We won't rely on Wellington committees to reinvent the economy, we'll trust Kiwis to work out how to get back on their feet.
We'll keep taxes low, we won't regulate firms to death or keep changing the rules. We'll back them to succeed.
Fifth, we'll use the Government's balance sheet to invest in large, high quality infrastructure and we’ll actually get it done – like National did with the Ultra-Fast Broadband – in upgrading our skills, turbo-charging the innovation sector and improving the quality of public services, such as health.
We need a Budget that backs New Zealanders.
I urge the Government to implement our proposals. They will save businesses and jobs and inject the massive stimulus into the economy.
Instead, when New Zealanders look at today’s Budget they will see some of the bleakest economic forecasts this country has seen in living memory. Widespread unemployment, growing debt, a decade of deficits.
It’s easy to get lost in all of the big numbers today. The four-year projections of spending, the extra of billions in debt, the debt-to-GDP ratio.
We forget that each of those numbers, all of the numbers in fact, represents a bigger challenge. The burden we place on New Zealanders and the responsibility we have to them.
We forget that a decade of deficits and debt means fewer choices for our kids down the road.
The obligation we as Parliamentarians have to make sure the next generation is better off than we were. That they have more choices, more opportunities, and more ability to succeed in the world because we back them, not burden them with debt.
Because I want my two-year-old daughter Jemima in a couple of decades to buy her first home without having to pay higher taxes.
I want the young apprentice from Timaru who emailed me and who wants to set up his own business to do so without having to paying higher taxes and be crippled by that tax.
I want all New Zealanders to have the future they want.
That means a Government with a plan that doesn’t just accept that debt and deficits are our future.
That means a Government with the vision and the determination to get New Zealand working again. And that means we need a plan for growth.
We need a plan for saving jobs.
We need a plan for keeping debt low so future generations are not saddled with more debt.
We are yet to see a comprehensive plan from this Government. As I said before, it’s easy to spend the money but there’s no plan here.
What we needed to see in this Budget was specific solutions to save businesses and jobs – the growth engine of our country – and a plan on how this Government will responsibly manage the economy.
We need to put trust in Kiwis to unleash their creativity and their ingenuity.
Let Kiwis unleash their potential and plans.
Let’s back and trust everyday New Zealanders to succeed.
Let’s unlock New Zealand and get New Zealand working again.