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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Question No. 2—Finance

2. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: What advice, if any, beyond the economic scenarios published on 14 April 2020, has he received from Treasury during the COVID-19 health and economic crisis?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): As the member might imagine, I have received a considerable amount of advice from the Treasury on a wide range of matters during the time period that he specifies. This includes advice on the many announcements that the Government has made, including advice on the wage subsidy scheme developed with the business community to protect jobs and incomes and keep businesses and workers connected during the lockdown; advice on the small-business cash-flow loan scheme to boost cash flow and help viable businesses with costs like rent, which has been welcomed by the business community; advice on the business finance guarantee scheme, a partnership between the Government and banks to get working capital out to business; and advice on the largest business tax support package in modern New Zealand history to support cash flow, encourage investment, and make it easier for businesses to manage their tax obligations during the crisis.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why has none of this advice been released?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Decisions around the release of the advice have been taken under the normal rules that we have, and I’m sure, in time, the member will receive it.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does the Minister think this is in any way a normal situation where the normal rules of disclosure apply?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As the member knows, I’ve realised the situation we’re in. I’ve come to the Epidemic Response Committee on the occasions that I’ve been invited, I have provided information to that, and, as I say, I’m sure the material the member wants will be released in due course.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why does he not trust New Zealanders with this information now?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I do trust New Zealanders.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: What was the nature of Treasury’s advice on the small-business cash-flow loan scheme mistakenly enacted last Thursday?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject the premise of the member’s question. This is a scheme that has been worked on for some time—including advice from the Treasury about how to best assist small businesses—in addition to the wage subsidy scheme. It’s a scheme that’s been widely welcomed by people in the small-business sector as one that will get money into their pockets and help with cash flow.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: How could he possibly dispute the fact that the loan scheme was mistakenly enacted last Thursday?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The loan scheme was intended to be announced this week. It ended up in a piece of legislation that, I believe, will be the subject of a later question on the Order Paper today. That was the outline. The framework of it—the loan scheme itself—is something we’re very proud of, and it’s something that New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses will benefit from significantly.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Based on the advice he’s received, what’s the best estimate from Treasury of what the lockdown is costing the New Zealand economy each week?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, as I think the member will be aware, the Treasury has done its scenarios, which show the significant impact on the economy. As we’ve been discussing today, in level 3, we’re operating at about 75 percent output. On a per day basis, I’ll have to get back to the member.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, isn’t the figure of $1.4 billion a week, based on the Treasury scenario of level 3—dropping 25 percent—burnt on his brain and keeping him awake at night?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I find myself, after working, like most members of this House are at the moment, about 18 hours a day, that, when I do get to bed, I sleep relatively well, and then, when I get up in the morning, I work every minute of the day to make sure that New Zealand households and businesses get through this crisis and flourish at the other end.