26 Nov 2020

Parliament opens to robust exchanges between govt and opposition

7:44 pm on 26 November 2020

The 53rd Parliament has kicked off with a lively Address in Reply debate, with the opposition vowing to hold the government to account, and to ensure it delivers on its promises.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attends the State Opening of Parliament.

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone 

National leader Judith Collins was the first to deliver a 30-minute speech.

She took aim at Labour's record last term, saying it failed to deliver on housing, child poverty, law and order, and education.

Collins said Labour had achieved a "remarkable election victory" and it had "no excuses" for not delivering on its mandate.

She said she was not feeling hopeful of that after listening to the Speech from the Throne this morning, saying she struggled to keep a straight face during it.

"I heard very few new ideas. In fact, this government failed to deliver on so many of its promises from three years ago, it was as if someone had picked up a copy of the 2017 Speech from the Throne, blew the dust off it, added in a Covid section, deleted the KiwiBuild section, and that's what we heard today".

Collins said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern could not pass the blame, and she needed to own her government's failures.

She said National would hold the government to account on all of its promises, and stand up for New Zealanders.

"Because they deserve better than they have had. They deserve more from a government of good intentions and many excuses. They deserve a government that delivers, not just a government of good intentions", she said.

In her reply Ardern hit back at Collins, saying she found it "galling" to be lectured by her about housing.

"[She] left us a housing crisis, denied there was a housing crisis, and I have to say, whose major response to that housing crisis was to sell state houses.

"On the one thing that apparently would make all the difference, planning, they did absolutely nothing", she said.

Ardern said her government had started to address the crisis by closing tax loop holes and banning foreign buyers.

She outlined the government's three overarching objectives this term - to keep New Zealanders safe from Covid-19, accelerate the economic recovery, and to lay the foundations for a better future.

She said that Labour owed it to New Zealanders to do everything it could to preserve the gains the team of five million had fought to achieve.

"The collective action of New Zealand has been probably one of the most humbling experiences of my lifetime. Now this government does not take that sacrifice for granted.

"And that is why we owe New Zealanders not just our gratitude, we owe them our ongoing action", she said.

Green Party MP Marama Davidson is sworn in at Parliament

Green Party MP Marama Davidson is sworn in at Parliament Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said her party would be focused on playing a co-operative and constructive role this term.

But she said it would criticise and push for reforms to go further on climate, welfare, and housing.

She said Covid-19 had shown that the country was ready for radical change for the greater good, like a wealth tax.

"Covid showed us that people are willing to make sacrifices big and small to take care of everyone. It is time for us to meet this unprecedented challenge with policies and investment that match the scale of the problem.

"Now feels like the time to be ruling in solutions that have not before been on the table," she said.

ACT leader David Seymour took aim at the government's Covid-19 response, saying there was a "laundry list" of its failing to "act effectively or efficiently".

"We have been sold the myth that we went hard and went early, when we had more time than most. We were the 63rd country to register a case.

"At every turn, the government's response has been like an episode of Dad's Army, but we were protected by vast oceans and the spirit of our people.

"Most importantly, we are about to enter a new world of Covid. Let's call it Covid 2, The Vaccine Edition," he said.

Seymour said the question was how the government would navigate the roll-out of vaccines.

"Will our approach to risk be none? Will we remain closed off to the rest of the world until they have forgotten there even was a pandemic? Will government decision-making remain murky and unpredictable, with business forced to guess what the policy might be next week? That can't be the best we can do," he said.

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