Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has responded to National leader Christopher Luxon’s promise to introduce a “taxpayers’ receipt” as one of its initiatives to promote fiscal discipline if they win this year’s election.
Luxon today announced in a pre-Budget speech one of the three methods he would use would be allowing people to find out from Inland Revenue what their taxes were paying for and any Government payments received.
Hipkins, speaking to media after a day of political jostling and before the Budget this week, said National was proposing to spend money on sending 4.3 million “spin doctory” letters to people explaining where their tax dollars are going.
He said given everything happening at the moment, if National’s big idea was essentially to send a bank statement to people, they have “got their priorities all wrong”.
He said they should “go back to the drawing board”.
Hipkins said it would ultimately involve needing to hire people to do the work when National has also proposed to cut public servants and consultants.
The Government will on Thursday unveil Budget 2023 - essentially the spending priorities for the next year and beyond. There are strong signals the cost of living will be front and centre in what is shaping up to be the major political issue before the election in October.
Hipkins said there had been a “significant” amount of reprioritisation decisions in this Budget.
He said he was “very proud” of his first Budget as prime minister, but also wouldn’t divulge any more details before Thursday.
“Three more sleeps,” Hipkins said.
Today’s press conference also follows a political poll on Sunday that showed a Labour-Green-Te Pāti Māori coalition would trump National and Act.
The Newshub Reid Research poll also showed, despite a horrendous week for Labour with Meka Whaitiri’s defection to Te Pāti Māori, National had not up made any ground. Leader Christopher Luxon also continued to be unpopular among voters at 16.4 per cent for preferred Prime Minister, down 2.4 points, and behind Hipkins on 23.4 per cent.
Speaking on the poll result, Hipkins said it was clear the public wanted the Government to be focused on the issues that matter.
Closer to the election and once platforms had been set out, Hipkins said he would be more clear on who they had common ground with.
On Te Pāti Māori, the Prime Minister said they had shared views on things like social policy and education and health, dealing with underlying causes of socioeconomic disadvantage.
Closer to the election there might be policies they would rule out, but this would come once manifestos had been laid out, he said.
On New Zealand First ruling Labour out, Hipkins said they would not be making any calls until closer to the election.
Govt announces new classrooms, schools ahead of Budget
Today, Hipkins and Education Minister Jan Tinetti announced the construction of 300 new classrooms and up to four new schools in a pre-Budget announcement.
The $300 million in spending will create 6600 new student spaces.
Hipkins said in 2017 they had inherited a “rundown school property portfolio”.
Since then they had spent more than $2 billion on renovating and building new school infrastructure.
The announcement followed a nearly $1 billion announcement on Sunday to assist with the cyclone recovery.
In tough times the Budget will do what it can to help New Zealanders amid the cost of living crisis.
Speaking on the cyclone recovery funding, that meant other projects had to be stalled or scrapped.
Hipkins said he was still working through the findings of the forestry slash inquiry released on Friday.
Local authorities would be able to feed their views back into it, Hipkins said.
PM looking forward to US-Pacific summit
Hipkins said he would be making a climate change announcement in Auckland on Sunday before travelling to Papua New Guinea for a US-Pacific summit, also attended by US President Joe Biden.
Hipkins said he was looking forward to meeting Pacific leaders in Papua New Guinea and meeting President Biden.
It would give him a chance to speak with them about issues important to New Zealand.
On chances Biden might not attend given domestic issues around the debt ceiling limit, Hipkins said that was hypothetical and he would make a decision on attending if Biden pulled out.
National and Act’s pre-Budget plans
Earlier, National and Act both made their own pre-Budget announcements.
Luxon announced the three methods he would use to make Government more fiscally disciplined.
The first method was implementing a requirement for Treasury to report annually on the performance of major programmes to “demonstrate whether they are achieving results”.
The second was the “taxpayers’ receipt” from Inland Revenue, and the third initiative was the re-introduction of public sector chief executives having their pay linked to achievement. Luxon said he would extend this to apply to deputy chief executives as well.
Act Party leader David Seymour proposed a two-rate income tax system and hundreds of millions of dollars to increase capacity in New Zealand prisons for both adults and young people.
Act’s “Alternative Budget” also included an increase in Defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP, like last year, which Seymour said would bring New Zealand into line with its allies.