Labour would hike its new spending to $18.4b

27 August 2014 0 Comments

David Cunliffe and Labour have actually increased their new spending promises for the next four years to $18.4 billion, despite putting some of their proposals such as New Zealand Power on the never-never, National Party Finance Spokesman Bill English says.

“David Cunliffe and David Parker have again been caught out under-costing their expensive promises,” Mr English says. “This is irresponsible and deceptive and confirms that under David Cunliffe, Labour is reverting to its failed spend and tax recipe of the past.

“We saw what happened the last time around – under Labour in 2008, floating mortgage rates reached almost 11 per cent, inflation exceeded 5 per cent and the economy went into recession well before the global financial crisis.”

Labour’s latest costings attempt, which it released on Monday, confirm its untried New Zealand Power proposal, which would give politicians control of the electricity industry and push up power prices, would be postponed until 1 January 2018.

And in another example of it attempting to dress up its numbers, Labour has also pushed back free GP visits for over 65s and other groups to 1 January 2017.

“So while David Cunliffe is going around New Zealand making expensive promises, he is quietly pushing some of them back beyond two elections because he knows they are unaffordable,” Mr English says.

“But he has again failed to hide Labour’s real spending agenda because he has not added in promises made over the last two weeks.

“Even using Labour’s own numbers, the cost of its promises over the next four years is now $17.3 billion – up from its claimed $16.4 billion when it first attempted to cost its policies.

“But when the real costs of its proposed R&D tax credit, compulsory KiwiSaver and New Zealand Power are included, the tally jumps to $18.4 billion – up from around $18 billion the last time around.

“As Labour’s numbers come under scrutiny, they keep changing them,” Mr English says. “David Cunliffe has tried to say he would spend less, but when you add it all up he is actually spending more.”

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Cunliffe’s fiscal backdown nothing like enough

26 August 2014 0 Comments

David Cunliffe and Labour are still committed to irresponsibly spending all of the next four Budgets before the election, despite yesterday attempting – and failing – to recast their ropey fiscal forecasts, National Party Finance Spokesman Bill English says.

“New Zealanders can now see that under David Cunliffe economic history would repeat itself,” he says.

“Having been part of a Labour government that left New Zealand in recession with high interest rates, forecasts of never-ending deficits and ever-rising debt, David Cunliffe has again confirmed he has learnt nothing from the fiscal and economic mess Labour left for New Zealanders.

“Two election campaigns on, he has reverted to form with new spending promises still totalling nearly $18 billion over four years. Having been criticised for being fiscally irresponsible, he belatedly realised he had over-stretched and has attempted to back down. But it hasn’t worked.

“David Cunliffe has scared New Zealanders with his spending plans and he’s scared his partners the Greens. He’s now even scared himself. No wonder the Greens are calling for a full audit of Labour’s numbers.

“The trouble for Labour is that its claims of trimming extra spending just don’t stack up because proper costings of Labour’s tweaked promises still add up to around $18 billion over four years. And that’s before you add the Greens’ promises to spend an extra $10 billion over the same period – and who knows how many billions more by the Dotcom party.

“By contrast, National has committed only a small fraction of future Budgets. This will provide us with flexibility to deal with future shocks, speed up debt repayment or provide future tax reductions should there be room to do so.”

Labour, Greens and Dotcom would spend up large

25 August 2014 0 Comments

It’s too late for Labour to try to look responsible with taxpayers’ money when it has publically committed to four years of new spending with almost a month to run before the election, National Party Finance Spokesman Bill English says.

"Labour is desperately trying to make its big spending commitments look smaller, and has decided to not even put costings on its big spending tertiary and transport commitments.

“Neither David Cunliffe nor David Parker could this morning actually list which of their expensive spending promises would be delayed in what was a failed attempt to appear fiscally prudent.

“Labour would return to their high spending ways, with at least an $18 billion list of new spending commitments," Mr English says.

"That's before you add the Greens’ promises to spend an additional $10 billion over the next four years. Then then there’s the wish list of support partner the Dotcom party, which wants to spend billions more on free tertiary education and community make-work schemes.

“Whatever Labour presents now would be up for negotiation in coalition talks where the Greens would have considerable sway – not to mention concessions demanded by Dotcom.

"On top of that, the Greens and Labour are arguing over their numbers. The Greens say they want Labour’s numbers independently audited – and for good reason.  And as we saw from the weekend, they can't even agree fairly basic stuff like where the two of them think the top personal tax rate should be.

"The last time we saw this sort of approach, New Zealand taxpayers and families were the losers, with high deficits, a stalling economy and mortgage interest rates at nearly 11 per cent. New Zealand simply can't afford the Labour/Greens/Dotcom coalition,” Mr English says.

New Better Public Services targets aim higher

21 August 2014 0 Comments

Better-than-expected progress in reducing crime and having more young people attain higher qualifications means these two Better Public Service targets will be made more challenging if National is returned to government after the election.

The two targets are among 10 this Government has set to ensure the money invested in public services actually delivers demonstrable gains for New Zealanders, National Party Finance Spokesman Bill English and State Services Spokesman Jonathan Coleman say.

“For too long, governments have considered that spending more money equates to fixing problems, even when the evidence shows that simply isn’t the case,” Mr English says.

“That’s why our Government considers results rather than more spending as the best measure of the effectiveness of public services.

“In 2012, we set measurable targets in 10 challenging areas to improve the lives of New Zealanders, particularly the most vulnerable, and it’s pleasing that our six-monthly updates show good progress.

“In two targets, the results have been so much better than anticipated that we’re lifting the bar so we aim for even more improvement.”

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Greens plainly wrong again on Budget claims

19 August 2014 0 Comments

Russel Norman and the Greens have again confirmed they cannot read Budgets, repeating incorrect claims that the National-led Government is planning multi-billion dollar cuts to health and education spending over the next three years.

“If I was Russel Norman, I’d ask BERL to cancel the invoice for their latest report on behalf of the Greens,” National Party Finance Spokesman Bill English says.

“The forecast health and education numbers they quote for future years exclude allocations yet to be made from future annual operating allowances for discretionary spending and they also exclude capital investment allocations.

“These decisions are made by ministers just before each Budget – as they have done under successive governments.

“Typically health and education receive most of this extra discretionary operating spending.”

In Budget 2013, the Vote Health allocation for 2014/15 was in the accounts at $14.1 billion. After Budget 2014 decisions, the total health budget, including discretionary spending and capital investment, was actually $15.6 billion.

“This process happens every year, but Dr Norman obviously doesn’t know that - yet he wants to be finance minister one day.

“Although the Greens are again wrong with their numbers, they also fail to understand that it is the results of spending that matter for New Zealanders – such as lower crime and higher educational achievement.”

On track to surplus, more jobs, higher incomes

19 August 2014 0 Comments

New Zealand is on track to Budget surplus this year, backed by good growth, more jobs and higher incomes under the Government’s economic programme, according to Treasury’s Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update issued today.

“The Pre-election Update confirms New Zealanders have the opportunity to build on their hard-won gains of recent years – providing we stick with the Government’s successful programme,” Finance Minister Bill English says.

“Now is certainly not the time to put New Zealand’s good progress at risk with more taxes and sharply higher government spending.

“The forecast Budget surplus for this year is still modest at $297 million and the forecast surpluses in subsequent years are not large - and yet we already have political parties making expensive promises and commitments.

“We saw how this approach damage New Zealand under the previous Labour government, when the spending proved unsustainable and we went into deficit. The economy collapsed into recession before the global financial crisis, cost of living increases soared above 5 per cent and floating mortgage rates reached almost 11 per cent.”

The Pre-election Update confirms the outlook for New Zealand’s economy and the Government’s books have not changed significantly since the Budget in May.

“Some of the drivers of growth are expected to be a little stronger than forecast in the Budget, while others have weakened a little,” Mr English says.

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Data Futures Forum delivers final report

28 July 2014 0 Comments

The Data Futures Forum has delivered a range of thought-provoking recommendations on the use of data in New Zealand, Finance Minister Bill English and Statistics Minister Nicky Wagner say.

The forum, an advisory group comprising public and private sector experts, delivered its third and final report to the Government today.

“It shows New Zealand has the opportunity to be a world leader in the sharing of data held by government, with high ethical and privacy standards,” Mr English says.

The Data Futures Forum was established in February to consider how to unlock opportunities through greater data sharing. The initiative is part of the Government’s wider programme to deliver better results from public spending.

“We are already seeing the benefits that more intelligent use of data can deliver – for example the actuarial valuation of the welfare system is supporting early interventions that avoid bigger costs later.”

Statistics Minister Nicky Wagner says the Data Futures Forum has come up with a number of interesting ideas.

“With the opportunity around the greater use of data goes responsibility. We’re aware of the genuine concerns about the way data is shared and managed. This report has made concrete recommendations that will be of interest to New Zealanders and I encourage them to read it,” Ms Wagner says.

“We thank the Forum members, under the leadership of John Whitehead, for their efforts. The Government will fully consider the report before responding.”

The report is available here: https://www.nzdatafutures.org.nz/.

Local regulations go under microscope

22 July 2014 0 Comments

The Government says it is accepting nearly all of the recommendations the Productivity Commission has made on ways to improve local regulations.

“The quality of local regulation impacts significantly on New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing.  It affects all aspects of our lives from resource and building consents through to food safety and liquor licensing,” says Regulatory Reform Minister, Bill English.

Mr English says the Government is determined to ensure the local regulatory system is functioning as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“That’s why we asked the commission to provide advice on how we can improve how functions are allocated at a local level and ensure there is adequate resourcing and clear directions on the local and national management of regulations. 

“I’m pleased to announce that we are accepting all but two of the Commission’s recommendations to improve the local regulatory system. 

“The Department of Internal Affairs will work with other government agencies whose policies and legislation impact on local government to improve consultation and minimise any unintended negative impacts.

“Treasury will work with key agencies to consider how the regulatory planning process can be used to provide better information about future regulatory proposals affecting local government,” Mr English says.

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett is also establishing a new Rules Reduction Taskforce that will identify and address bureaucratic and nonsensical rules.

She says the Government has already made some changes to improve the way regulation works at the local level.

“The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 requires councils to coordinate with other monitoring and enforcement agencies.  Changes proposed by the freshwater and resource management reforms will improve the delivery of local regulation in those areas,” says Mrs Bennett.

The Government response to the Commission’s ‘Towards Better Local Government’ can be found at: http://www.dia.govt.nz/diawebsite.nsf/wpg_URL/Resource-material-Our-Policy-Advice-Areas-Local-Government-Policy?OpenDocument

Good progress on Better Public Service targets

21 July 2014 0 Comments

Long-term welfare dependency is reducing and more young people are achieving higher qualifications under the Government’s Better Public Services initiative, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman say.

The Government today published the July update of BPS targets, which confirms more good progress in tackling some of the most challenging issues facing New Zealanders, however making headway in other areas is slower, Mr English says.

“The Government is committed to making progress on the really difficult issues that affect our communities and families, and particularly the most vulnerable,” he says.

“Taxpayers spend billions of dollars a year on public services to help their fellow New Zealanders and this Government is determined to ensure they get what they pay for. Our focus on reducing welfare dependency, increasing achievement in schools and reducing crime require government agencies to find better solutions and to work with others to implement them. 

“We are prepared to spend money on effective programmes which change lives, because what works for the community also works for the Government’s books.”

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Australian Treasurer Hockey to visit NZ next week

18 July 2014 0 Comments

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey will visit New Zealand between 21 and 23 July – his first visit to this country since becoming Treasurer last year, Finance Minister Bill English says.

“I’m looking forward to hosting Mr Hockey for our annual bilateral meeting,” Mr English says. “We’ve enjoyed a strong and positive personal relationship going back a number of years and I’m looking forward to catching up with him once again.

“New Zealand’s economic, trade and investment ties with Australia are closer than with any other country. We share a number of common opportunities and challenges, which I’m keen to discuss with Mr Hockey.

“The visit will follow New Zealand’s attendance at the Leadership Group of the Business 20 in Sydney this week - a forum that brought together business leaders from across the G20.

“The New Zealand Government appreciates Australia – through its G20 presidency – providing the opportunity for New Zealand to attend a number of G20-related meetings this year,” Mr English says.

During his New Zealand visit, Mr Hockey will visit Christchurch to learn about progress with the city’s rebuild.

In Wellington, he will meet Prime Minister John Key and other ministers, along with a number of business leaders.

Mr Hockey and Mr English will address a Trans-Tasman Business Circle lunch in Wellington on 23 July, before Mr Hockey returns to Australia.