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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Question No. 3—Finance

3. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Finance: What economic policies, if any, are responsible for the increase in the number of New Zealanders leaving New Zealand?

Hon JAMES SHAW (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: On behalf of the Minister, and apparently a number of his associates, these policies were—

SPEAKER: No—on behalf of the Minister, who is currently the associate.

Hon JAMES SHAW: On behalf of the Minister, these policies were many and varied, so I’ll mention only three: the previous Government’s policy to lift exports from 30 to 40 percent of GDP, which contributed to exports falling to 26 percent of GDP; the previous Government’s policy to make the economy more productive, which meant that between 2013 and 2017, average annual productivity growth was negative in New Zealand; and the previous Government’s housing policy, which made housing less affordable. The housing crisis, of course, will not be fixed overnight, but we are making good progress. These policies of the previous Government are still having a negative effect. We are making progress on the nine years of neglect that we inherited, but it will take more than two years to turn these around.

Hon Todd McClay: Well, does he think 22,000 more people on the unemployment benefit and a tripling of New Zealanders heading overseas since his Government came to office is a positive indication of his Government’s economic performance?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, as it turns out, in reference to part of the question relating to New Zealanders leaving—and given that he spent so many years overseas himself, he should have some first-hand experience of this—net permanent and long-term migration of New Zealand citizens started rising again at the end of 2016, which was shortly after that member was appointed as Minister for trade, so he should be in a good position to tell this House why the exporting of New Zealanders started to lift again under his watch.

Hon Todd McClay: Does he think policies that have increased rents by $50 a week and the four new fuel taxes piled on by his Government have contributed to the 48,000 New Zealanders that left New Zealand for good this year?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, as it happens, there’s more good news in that department too, because Consumers Price Index inflation fell to 1.5 percent in the September quarter, down from 1.7 percent in the period to June. He’s also referencing, I think, petrol prices, he mentioned, which are down 2.9 percent nationwide on the previous year. So prices are coming down under this Government.

Hon Todd McClay: Does he think policies that saw 12 significant road projects cancelled or postponed by his Government, leaving hard-working Kiwis stuck in traffic, have contributed to New Zealanders, including road construction workers, moving overseas?

Hon JAMES SHAW: The National Party never had a question for which roads were not the answer, and in this particular case they authorised a number of roads in their last few years in Government which were not funded, not resourced, not paid for—they were ghost roads. This Government is actually spending more on roads than that Government ever did, and on longer stretches of road—80,000 kilometres of road are being paid for in terms of their maintenance and safety under this Government. More good news from this Government.

Hon Todd McClay: Does he think New Zealand households having paid $3,400 more in tax this year, at a time when Australia gave a $1,000 tax cut to its workers, has contributed to this large increase in the number of Kiwi families leaving New Zealand this year?

Hon JAMES SHAW: I hope I get more questions from this member in the future. As it happens, in relation to tax, for an average single worker with no children, New Zealand has the second-lowest tax on labour income in the OECD, and for a one-earner married couple with two children, New Zealand has the lowest tax on labour income in the OECD.

Hon Todd McClay: Mr Speaker—

Hon Members: Oh!

SPEAKER: Order! Order! A member has a right to ask a question.

Hon Todd McClay: Does he believe New Zealanders are paying too much tax under his Government?

Hon JAMES SHAW: As I just pointed out, New Zealanders actually pay less tax than virtually any other country in the OECD, and, actually, we are at the moment needing to pay for nine years of neglect under the previous Government, a massive infrastructure shortfall, and a huge housing deficit. Actually, Government revenue is important because all of those things and the public services that we deserve and expect need to get paid for somehow, and that is what is happening under this Government.

MIL OSI