15 Sep 2020

Winston Peters targets lack of shared financial advice over Covid-19 lockdowns

4:58 pm on 15 September 2020

Government advisors have not provided analysis of the economic damage from lockdowns to Cabinet, despite New Zealand First asking for it for months, party leader Winston Peters says.

Winston Peters in Wairoa during his 2020 election campaigning. 14 September 2020

New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Cabinet decided yesterday to keep the country in the same alert levels for another week, prompting New Zealand First to invoke the agree to disagree provision.

In Gisborne today, Peters said he did not get any data at Cabinet about the impact of the lockdown on Auckland's economy.

"If you do an evaluation of what the past looked like and what's not happening now, it's not difficult to do that equation ... I've seen traffic movements and I've seen credit card spend, that's not a granular way to examine how an economy looks.

"That data is not and has not been prepared for the decision we made yesterday. We asked in New Zealand First 'can you tell us what the economic cost of a lockdown in Auckland would be?' ... we never got it then and we still haven't got it."

"You should have seen it yesterday when the decision was announced and defended, surely. And you should have seen it when the lockdown happened the first time, which we say in New Zealand First is unnecessary, and we still stand by that, there's been no cases at all since April around the rest of the South Island."

He says that sort of information should be provided to the public and to all parties and during an election campaign.

"After all we did campaign on transparency and fiscal transparency, and the legislation that's now 30 years old demands that this be out in front of the public so the public knows what the truth is."

He says the economy is in serious decline and the public has no idea just how much.

"The effect here is between 15 and 20 percent, far worse than Australia ... they were saying it was gonna be under 15 percent. I'm saying it's gonna be higher.

"Australians have done far better than us and they're falling a far shorter distance than us in terms of economic turnaround and you've got to ask yourself why would that be."

He says government statements on the economy are not being backed up by facts.

"Go and ask some serious economists like Cameron Bagrie and others what do they think and they'll tell you otherwise, so why are they not being listened to in this case."

New Zealand's gross domestic product (GDP) figures are due out on Thursday, and expected to show the economy in recession.

He says GDP is the standard measure of economy but that it does not show the quality of economic activity.

"Quality of economic activity is more important. Is it exports, is it manufacturing takeup in our country? Is it added value in our country? Does the wealth stay in our country? None of those things are answered by the GDP equation."

National Party leader Judith Collins says she is not expecting to see the economy in a good position.

"I'm expecting to see that the books are not in a very good position with the government and I think that we'll wait to see exactly what the extent of that is.

"The fact that Grant Robertson is trying to talk down the economy at the moment tells us that he knows there is something unpleasant on its way for New Zealanders and it's all about the economy.

"We're pricing in the downturn in the economy ... you'll see that our numbers add up."

RNZ is seeking comment from Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern.

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