29 Apr 2019

Simon Bridges responds to National leadership and unity rumours

11:22 am on 29 April 2019

National Party members are sending a clear message that there needs to be better unity and discipline, leader Simon Bridges says.

Simon Bridges.

National Party leader Simon Bridges Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The New Zealand Herald yesterday reported that National leader Simon Bridges was expected to deliver a strong message to his caucus tomorrow that the only path to power was through discipline and unity.

However, Mr Bridges told Morning Report he never said that and the comments he made were in reference to a regional conference he attended in Hamilton.

"I never said that and certainly I wouldn't comment on what I am going to say [at caucus].

"I've come from a regional conference in Hamilton, they delivered a really clear message to me in our conservation, our hundreds of members there, they expect us in the so-called year of delivery to hold the government to account, they expect us to develop and show our positive plans and they also expect discipline and unity.

"My comments if you read the piece have been this is a constant thing that John Key, Bill English and I are banging the drum [about] as leaders of the National Party."

Asked whether there was in fact unity and discipline in the party, Mr Bridges said: "The straightforward answer is there's media speculation about that, so by definition we can do better."

Earlier this month, Newshub reported that National members were talking to the media organisation about frustrations behind the scenes and that some were doing the numbers for Judith Collins.

Mr Bridges won the leadership in February last year against a field of four others: Amy Adams, Steven Joyce, Mark Mitchell and Judith Collins.

Asked about whether Judith Collins could be next in line to leadership of the party, Mr Bridges said he would not be making any comments about his caucus.

"No one has said that to me," he told Morning Report. "I trust my colleagues, I believe we've got a fantastic caucus.

"I lead a big party, we need to make sure we are disciplined and unified, that's one I think of three important spokes as we seek to be government in 2020."

He said he believed the party was in good shape to carry out its plans in seeking to be in power next.

"If you think about where we're at, we're 18 months in, you've got a shiny new government, a bit like a shiny new car coming out of the car yard … already there's dings on the car, whether it's Capital Gains Tax, whether it's KiwiBuild, whether it's year of delivery.

"For us it's about maturely understanding where we're at but also accepting that as we hold the government to account, as we develop our plans, as we're strong and unified, we have a very good crack for next government."

National hits out at 'wasteful spending'

In response to an Official Information Act request by the party, Corrections revealed it bought 193 slushy ice machines for prison staff over summer.

The Corrections Minister has hit back at National's claims of wasteful spending, saying he won't apologise for looking after staff.

Mr Bridges told Morning Report that there was more wasteful spending and it was right to hold the government to account for it.

"When you've got doctors' strikes, when you've got cancer drugs in need of paying for, when you've got mental health that clearly needs more funding, we need to make sure that we're using money right," he said.

"It's comical apart from the fact that it is $1 million and you just have to say 193 of these at nearly $6000 a pop, when prisons have dozens of them, Mt Eden I think has 20, that is excessive.

He said he understood that a number of them weren't working but he wouldn't necessarily now take them out.

"I'm not going to devise what the system is to keep staff cool because I accept there will be issues here on things to do."

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