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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard


(continued on 6 April 2022)


Third Reading

Debate resumed.

ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Jacqui Dean): The House is resumed. When the House rose last evening, we were considering the third reading of the Road User Charges (Temporary RUC Reduction Scheme) Amendment Bill. The next speaker is one from the National Party.

Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel): Thank you, Madam Speaker. Well, for those keen and enthusiastic viewers and listeners to the radio and who are watching this on television, let’s do a little bit of a refresher about what happened last night. So the Government put the Parliament into urgency to pass under all stages this Road User Charges (Temporary RUC Reduction Scheme) Amendment Bill. The purpose of this bill is actually to cover up a panicked poll result decision made by the Government after the public poll that came out on 10 March. They’re using as the excuse—and this is all about trying to backtrack and sort out how to give effect to the lowering of prices for people who use diesel in their vehicles. And the way that excise and revenue is collected on diesel vehicles is by way of a road user charge, and the problem for the Government was that when they made the announcement back on 14 March, they hadn’t done the homework. They hadn’t done the prep work, and decided that, yes, it’s very easy to take 25c a litre off the price of petrol at the pump because that’s nice and easy, but it’s far more difficult to organise a structured way to discount the road user charges for people who buy kilometres for their road user charge fee or levy or tax—whatever you like to call it—in advance. And then there’s the added problem of, how do you stop people gaming the system, if, indeed, you want to stop people gaming the system? So these were issues that the Government needed to take into account.

They were using as an excuse for this not the TV1 poll that showed National ahead of Labour, which I think was their reason and rationale for making the announcement, but they’re using the Ukraine-Russia conflict that’s going on. Now, hostilities started on 24 February, but there had been weeks, if not months, of advance speculation by commentators all around the world, including here in New Zealand, who said that this conflict, if it took place, would likely have a very negative effect on oil prices, and that prices of oil and diesel would almost certainly go up. So a Government would have had to have been blind to international commentary on these matters for not understanding that a crisis was going to come if Putin actually came good on his threats. Ultimately, he did, and hostilities commenced on 24 February.

Then after the poll, the TVNZ poll on 10 March, the Government very hastily made a decision and an announcement on 14 March that they were going to drop the price of petrol at the pump to help the squeezed middle in New Zealand, who are so impacted by the cost of living crisis and the rapidly rising price of petrol, but also they were going to reduce the price of diesel by the same amount. And the problem was that it was much easier with petrol than with diesel, and that’s why this legislation is placed.

But to tell people who are watching this debate this morning what really happened and to give an insight into how disorganised the Government was and how keen they were to make the announcement—because, remember, this is a Government that’s very good at announcing announcements; absolutely hopeless, however, on delivery; hopeless on follow-through; very good on being empathetic but hopeless on delivery and actually doing anything. So an announcement was made on 14 March. It was not until 23 March that the New Zealand Transport Agency ended up actually conducting a workshop on how to implement the reduction in diesel road user charges. So that gives an insight into the difficulties and the challenges that the Government had, and how again—just once again—they’ve been caught out so keen to make an announcement but so hopeless on delivery.

So, notwithstanding all that history, we do support this legislation. We support it because this is a small, albeit temporary, respite for some road users, particularly those who are using diesel to fuel their vehicles and also the wider issue of temporary relief for petrol users as well. But, sooner or later, the temporary nature of this legislation and the temporary nature of the change to petrol prices will have to come to an end. And that’s going to be an even bigger challenge for a Government that has lost sight of the squeezed middle, has lost sight of what the impacts of the cost of living crisis are on New Zealanders, and simply doesn’t have solutions when we are in a situation with the highest inflation in 30 years.