24 Nov 2023

Labour leader Chris Hipkins: 'This is going to be a government that drives people apart'

3:33 pm on 24 November 2023
Chris Hipkins speaks after announcement of shape of government

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The coalition agreements seen today reveal a "very confused and contradictory grab-bag" that will "take New Zealand backwards", says Labour leader Chris Hipkins.

Hipkins has spoken to media this afternoon, following the formal unveiling of the National-ACT-NZ First coalition.

Watch the media conference here:

The Labour Party leader has remained in the job since October's election as caretaker, awaiting the outcome of negotiations between the three parties, which will soon take over with Christopher Luxon as prime minister and Winston Peters his deputy.

Hipkins congratulated the incoming government and said the outgoing government will work with them to ensure a smooth transition.

But he has also slammed the new government's priorities as "wrong".

"They have decided to prioritise landlords over renters, prioritise the oil and gas industry over New Zealand's international reputation and environment, they have decided to prioritise the tobacco lobby over the health of all New Zealanders."

He also said that Labour's pre-election predictions that National's tax cuts did not add up had proven to be true, with a hole of at least $3 billion hole in their tax plan.

Paying for tax cuts would mean extra borrowing - which will in turn mean inflation and interest rates will stay higher for longer, he said.

"New Zealanders will pay more than they are likely to benefit from in the tax cuts that the National Party are offering."

He said the party had "no financial plan associated with what we have seen today".

"That's because they have spent the last six weeks they have come up with a whole lot of commitments and no idea how they're going to pay for them."

Responding to questions from media, Hipkins said the nation was seeing the seeds of "some very divisive debates over the next few months and years".

"This is definitely going to be a government that drives people apart and lead to more polarisation of the nation than we have seen to date."

He said Labour's role as opposition will be threefold.

"One will be to do a good job of holding the government to account. That means scrutinising what they are doing. The second is to be proactive - to make sure we are offering up differing ideas and better ideas. And the third of course will be to put ourselves in a position to win in three years' time."

As for the co-sharing of the deputy prime minister, he said: "It's interesting that they're proposing to abolish co-governance arrangements when they're putting one in place for the deputy prime minister."

He also noted that it was good Luxon was moving into a round office - "given the circles that David Seymour and Winston Peters seem to be running around him and no doubt will for the next three years".

The negotiations were the second-longest in New Zealand's MMP history, behind only 1996, when New Zealand First was in a 'kingmaker' position.

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