17 Feb 2020

National's economic stance: Simon Bridges targets tax cuts ahead of 2020 election

1:50 pm on 17 February 2020

The National Party will campaign on a tax cut package, but leader Simon Bridges is not yet revealing any of the details.

Watch Simon Bridges addressing the media here:

Bridges delivered a speech in Auckland at midday today, laying out the economic priorities for a National government and hinting that those earning around the average wage would benefit.

In his speech he continued his message that the government was costing New Zealand thousands of dollars more each year through taxes and compliance costs.

"Jacinda Ardern's government has failed to deliver on its promises, has piled on the tax, cost and red tape, made things more uncertain domestically at a time of global uncertainty, and as a result New Zealand has become a country of lost opportunities.

"Three years ago our economy was growing at nearly four percent a year and we are now almost half of that and falling," he said.

Bridges had already committed National to indexing tax bracket thresholds to the cost of living and scrapping the regional fuel tax in Auckland.

Today he flagged more extensive tax cuts aimed at those on the average wage.

"We will announce our full tax plan that will see people on the average wage better off and keeping more of what they earn. People on the average wage shouldn't be paying almost 33 percent in the dollar," he said.

Bridges also said National would invest in infrastructure, using private sector partnerships where necessary.

"Kiwis deserve certainty and a government that gets things done. National's focus is simple and resolute. We will keep taxes and red tape low and grow incomes to help your cost of living. We will be responsible managers of our economy. We will focus on growing our economy for all. We will invest more in more public services like health and education. Finally we will create more jobs and opportunities for New Zealanders.

"We not only need to build the roads to get you and your family home on time, but invest in the social infrastructure our country needs in world class hospitals and schools.

"We won't be afraid to use the private sector to partner with government to deliver projects that matter to us all. That means we can deliver more roads, more rail, more transport and more social infrastructure faster and better," he said.

Bridges also indicated that National would allow foreign investors back into the housing market, but only at the top end.

As well as outlining National's economic priorities, Bridges announced key measures that it will incorporate if elected later this year.

These include getting economic growth back to at least three percent per annum, ensuring New Zealand's growth rate per person is in the top half off the OECD, and reducing the after-tax income gap with Australia.

He also highlighted National's promise to cut two regulations for every new one it introduced.

He said he would want a National government to be measured by five things, namely a 3 percent annual increase in GDP, keeping New Zealand's per capita growth rate in the top half of the OECD, reduce the after-tax income gap with Australia, ensure more New Zelaanders could reach their potential in New Zealand, and revive business confidence.

He said the party would achieve those economic goals through five main avenues: tax relief, regulation reduction, infrastructure, small business, and families.

Bridges said Jacinda Ardern's government had brought the country to deficit - however the government announced last month it had a surplus of $100m, up from a forecast deficit of $1.3bn.

In a question and answer session after his speech, Bridges was asked where climate change would sit in his economic plan and said it was "extremely important".

"To resort the rhetoric that our Prime Minister's so good at, a bit of rhetoric, she said in her speech to Parliament this year 'judge me, judge us on our deeds'. The reality of the deeds are actually this simple. Emissions under the last National government went down - emissions right now on labour's figures from the Ministry for the Environment went up and up and up. And I think they will continue to."

However, the Ministry's greenhouse gas inventory for 1990-2017 shows emissions between 2016 and 2017 increased 2 percent, compared to an annual growth rate increase from 1990-2017 of 0.8 percent. The Ministry has not yet released its 1990-2018 inventory.

He appeared to pin his hopes on technology.

"We're going to be practical, sensible environmentalists. We're not going to be out there telling you it's an emergency and everything needs to change tomorrow ... I look at and I see broadly half of our emissions in primary production. I see a very clear role for biotechnology to wrestle those emissions down.

"I look at the other half of those emissions from transport through energy ... a pet project of mine, the government talks about but hasn't done as much as me on like electric vehicles, on public transport or energy and a bunch of other things from hydrogen to solar."

Challenged over whether the coalition government's push to include more statistics in its economic assessments, instead of solely focusing on GDP, he said "the basics still matter".

Finance Minister Grant Robertson described Bridge's speech as "vague, empty and relentlessly negative" saying it was clear that National has no new ideas.

"Simon Bridges just gave the most over-hyped and under-delivered speech that I can remember during my time in politics," Robertson said in a statement.

Robertson said Bridges was creating the same problems that are having to be fixed now.

"He is promising tax cuts without saying what services he will cut, and one of his first targets is to cut support for the homeless," Robertson said.

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