9 Jul 2018

Simon Bridges: Govt's 'untargeted' spending makes no sense

12:51 pm on 9 July 2018

National Party leader Simon Bridges says the government's planned borrowing is a sign of poor economic management.

Simon Bridges in the RNZ Auckland studio for an interview on Morning Report.

Simon Bridges (file) Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Mr Bridges said Labour's "untargeted" spending promises means the government is planning to increase its borrowing by $17 billion over the next four years - about what National borrowed to get through the Global Financial Crisis and Canterbury earthquakes.

But he said the $1b in funding for Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the tertiary fees-free policy and the Regional Development Fund - part of the coalition deal between Labour and New Zealand First being overseen by the minister Shane Jones - were the wrong things to do.

"They are a very significant telltale sign of poor economic management," he told Morning Report.

"If you look at where that spending is - diplomats, free fees and also the Shane Jones slush fund - there you have the best part of seven billion dollars in untargeted spending.

"New Zealanders would accept you do need to make sure you are doing the right things for a rainy day."

He said the regions needed decent quality roading infrastructure as the platform for growth.

"You can have a rinky-dinky tourism or iwi project here and there but unless you get the corridors right - and this government shows absolutely no sign of doing it - then you won't [get growth].

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the government was making up for "nine years of underinvestment by National" and the government was "making record investment in New Zealand's infrastructure". He said the government's books were in good shape.

'Free speech matters'

Meanwhile, Mr Bridges said he didn't know if he would have made the same call as Auckland mayor Phil Goff in banning two Canadians accused of hate speech from council venues, but said the pair should not be banned from New Zealand.

Lauren Southern.

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux cancelled their public talk in Auckland after being banned from council venues. Photo: Supplied

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, known for far-right alternative views on everything from feminism, gender and immigration to Islam, cancelled a public talk Mr Goff banned them from council venues.

"I don't agree in any way with what these activists are saying," Mr Bridges said.

But banning them from New Zealand would be a step too far.

"I think free speech matters and we need to jealously guard it.

"What we know with them coming to New Zealand is they will be able to find another venue and say the things that I entirely disagree with but that they are in a free mature liberal democracy entitled to say."

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said death and rape threats were directed at her when she posted comments on social media supporting Mr Goff's decision.

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