9 Feb 2022

National leader Christopher Luxon calls for vaccine mandate timeline, doesn't support protesters

5:27 pm on 9 February 2022

National Party leader Christopher Luxon says there needs to be a clear timeline with criteria set for when the country steps out of using vaccine mandates.

Christopher Luxon

Christopher Luxon Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

About 1000 people converged on Parliament yesterday to protest Covid-19 protection measures, including vaccine mandates.

Luxon told Morning Report while he appreciated everyone had a right to protest, there was a lot of antisocial behaviour and the protesters were infringing on the freedoms of others.

"Not supportive of this at all," he said.

Luxon said ultimately, the protesters were an operational issue for police.

The National Party had largely supported vaccine mandates, he said.

But, he said, there did need to be a clear timeline, triggers and criteria for when mandates finished.

"That's what I think the government does need to produce at some point, when is the point that goes away," he said.

"I think it's just a question of when they fundamentally think yeah, when we've got boosted when we've got high levels of endemic cases in the community, the relevance of vaccine mandates starts to diminish overtime. It just needs a timeframe for when they think that can be."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given an assurance that vaccine mandates will not remain in place forever.

Ardern said certificates and mandates will be used for only as long as there is a strong public health rationale.

"At the moment we know that vaccines are making a difference even with this Omicron wave, and that's why we have those requirements still in place.

"When they're not needed, of course we'd look to remove them.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the mandates remain under constant review.

Congestion pricing and pull back on govt spending needed - Luxon

The regional fuel tax in Auckland imposes an extra 10 cents a litre at the pump and a further 70 cents per litre across the country also goes to the government as excise tax.

Luxon said about half of the cost of petrol is in taxes.

"Almost forty percent is the international prices of oil going up and down and the balance is actually the retailer stuff of costs and margins, of rentals and all that sort of stuff," he said.

"There's a lot we can't control because it's in response to global oil prices but the bit that we can control is the tax component."

There is a cost of living crisis and we need to make sure Kiwis had enough cash to get through it, he said.

The National Party was calling for the regional fuel tax in Auckland to be scrapped to give motorists some relief in the face of skyrocketing prices.

Rather than a regional fuel tax, other pricing mechanisms like congestion pricing should be used, he said.

He said congestion pricing had worked really well in other cities around the world.

"We don't want it to be a revenue driving mechanism it's got to be able to be genuinely hypothecated and put towards proper public transport projects."

There were other things in the governments control that could be done, like pulling back government spending, Luxon said.

"The problem is we've got a constrained economy, we've got very low levels of unemployment, we've got labour shortages, you've got a government that's had a 68 percent increase in government spending since its come into power. It's powering that money into the economy, it's driving into inflation which leads to higher prices which ultimately is going to lead to higher interest rates.

"They've been the two big economic tools that the government's had."

There hadn't been a lot of micro economic activity or pro business policies, he said.

"What there has been is 'let's spend a lot of money and let's keep interest rates high'."

In the last quarter, domestic generated inflation in New Zealand was greater than what we had in international trade, he said.

"The challenge is, and a big part of that, is you've got government money and government spending going in that's actually squeezing out the private market and actually pushing prices up, so it is a component of it."

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