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Rt Hon Winston Peters Speech To Business North Harbour

New Zealand was not doing well before COVID-19 and with COVID-19 New Zealand voters are feeling enormous uncertainty and fear about our economic situation.

New Zealand First understands that.

We think people understand just how difficult the economic recovery is going to be.

With two major contributors to the economy – international tourism and education – moribund, the country faces an enormous challenge to earn as much money as it did pre-Covid.

And let’s not fool ourselves, as necessary as the wage subsidy was, in its absence we’re going to see a dramatic lift in unemployment, predicted to rise to over 7 percent next year, peaking at 7.8 percent in March 2022 in Treasury projections.

More and more New Zealanders are adjusting to living with job insecurity or worse.

The so-called feel good factor of New Zealand supposedly doing better than other countries economically is wearing thin very quickly.

Now don’t get this wrong, we supported the economic approach the coalition has taken in response to Covid.

In fact New Zealand First framed for Labour the philosophy that drove much of what followed in our immediate economic response.

Given the historic uncertainty that the pandemic produced, and with no playbook to guide us, we said that if the coalition erred, it should err on the side of being closer to the First Labour Government’s humanitarian response to the Great Depression than the Fourth Labour Government’s blitzkrieg approach.

The 1935 approach helped the country survive the depression and it set up long term access for housing, employment and necessary welfare. It set the course, also, for policy stability that lasted the next fifty years.

The latter 1984 and 1990 ideologically-driven approach sent people over the cliff with no warning and no support. Thirty-five years on we are still seeing the wreckage through:

· inter-generational welfare;

· the explosion of inequality;

· And a distorted economy that doesn’t give everyone the same chance to succeed or fail on their own terms.

So, we’re proud of our contribution to the initial set of decisions the coalition took to get New Zealanders through the massive shock of lockdowns and collapsed economic activity.

However, we see now that we are not doing as well as we ought.

One piece of economic data that shocked me when the PREFU was published was the 12.2 percent fall in GDP when compared to Australia’s fall of 7.0 percent or Taiwan at -1.4 percent.

The challenge this presents is two-fold.

First, we need to seriously grow our exports and incentivise our exporters to sell more. Never more have we needed to ride their coat-tails so New Zealand First’s economic policy is unashamedly pro-growth and pro-business. It would include:

· An ironclad commitment to ensure there are no increases in personal or business taxes;

· We will offer a tax break for new exports of 20% and an urgent reduction of business taxation to incentivise modernisation, increase productivity and employment;

· New Zealand First will continue to work hard to progress Free Trade Agreements to ensure that NZ exporters can grow in world markets as the global economy recovers;

· We will reduce corporate tax and not forget the R&D tax credit programme, as well as stopping a negative capital gains tax and interfering with all commercial leases;

· An accelerated capital depreciation regime which we think is absolutely necessary to encourage businesses large and small to invest in plant and capital;

· New Zealand First will bring back the 90 Day Work trial to all businesses. That policy is necessary because of the economic conditions we find ourselves in

· We have to give employers and job seekers the best chance to grow;

· We need to make it easier for workers to get out and work in the orchards and the vineyards. New Zealand First will adjust the abatement rate so whilst the work is there New Zealanders can go out and earn. Simply put, we cannot have fruit and produce rotting on the ground;

· Only under New Zealand First will the Provincial Growth Fund continue, targeted to business by industry and sector type, and directly related to training and skills enhancement programmes;

· The PGF will need to take a leading role in promoting local production as we ramp up import substitution and exports. This would also have a focus on supporting climate change initiatives, waste reductions and sustainability;

· Why do we support seeing the PGF continue? Because we say this as a matter of principle, driven by the conviction that the health of our cities rests upon our productive regions succeeding;

· Should by some calamity our cities burn down but our productive regions survive, then our cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our regions, and grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.

· Having made a commitment to the billion trees programme, New Zealand First believes it is important that the value-add proposition helps grow the timber to build our own homes, and satisfy demand

· We will continue to invest in the value add proposition that has been so lacking in the NZ economy for decades. This will include for example agritech and IT industries.

New Zealand First believes that these policies will mean that New Zealand will recover faster, grow more jobs, and start to pay down debt so that our children are not saddled with the oppressive burden facing them.

The second big economic challenge is to maintain fiscal discipline. New Zealand needs to work smarter. So does the government.

New Zealand First gets quite a bit of flak for occasionally serving as a handbrake.

Well, let me tell you what that handbrake has saved the taxpayer and business from during the past:

· An Independent Climate Change Commission with the statutory independence of the Reserve Bank;

· Nutty yet hugely damaging methane targets for our farmers up until 2030;

· $100 million thrown away in Southland for a ‘Just transition’ to an unclear destination;

· An additional $75 million (over four years), on top of $50 million already doled out indiscriminately to failing media organisations, most of who are foreign-owned;

· Interfering with the law of contracts on ALL commercial leases;

· By pushing Labour hard on coming down Alert Levels faster than was their inclination we saved the country hundreds and millions of dollars in otherwise lost economic activity.

And seeing that we live in a political economy a final warning to you is this:

  • Without New Zealand First, who in a Labour-Greens Government will exercise the necessary fiscal restraint to restore the budget into surplus and begin to pay down the mounting horrendous debt?
  • Without New Zealand First, who can provide a check on the left’s hunger for taxing the life out of the productive workforce? Tax as love? Give us a break.
  • Without New Zealand First, who will prevent an explosion in welfare spending, the expansion of ACC into illness, and a highly likely social insurance mega government reform?
  • Without New Zealand First who will prevent a left government from opening a new wave of Treaty claims out of previously settled ones?
  • Mark these words, that will be the effect of a settlement at Ihumatao, which both Labour and Greens have pledged to do.

New Zealand is facing an historic set of economic challenges, not that you’d know it from coverage of this election campaign.

Be that as it may, New Zealand First is asking you to take out necessary insurance. To grow the economy while maintaining fiscal discipline you need New Zealand First back in government. We have demonstrated over the past three years our competence and our ability to curb Labour and the Green’s worst instincts.

We also say experience is needed now more than ever. Don’t risk your and your children’s future. We say to you today, instead, back your future and we’ll back you.

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