Chris Hipkins says the National Party just likes to “whinge and moan” and has no original ideas, but Christopher Luxon believes that “a bit rich”.
The clash of the Chrises is heating up after Prime Minister Hipkins on Wednesday sent several of the Government’s policies to the slaughterhouse and put others on the back burner. It was part of Hipkins’ policy reprioritisation programme with the new Prime Minister hoping to refocus the Government on cost of living issues.
The proposed merger of Television New Zealand (TVNZ) and Radio New Zealand (RNZ) was culled, as was the biofuels mandate. The social insurance scheme won’t go ahead as planned while hate speech work has been booted to the Law Commission to deal with.
Luxon on Wednesday reacted to the policy bonfire by saying it was a “total shambles” and just “cynical politics” by Hipkins in an election year. While National criticised the announcements, the party has been deeply opposed to some of those schemes killed off, like the public media merger.
National’s also warning that Labour is just deferring its “ideological pet projects”, with the social insurance scheme and hate speech reform not completely scrapped – just not proceeding as planned.
Hipkins took a swing back at National on Thursday while holding a press conference in Tauranga.
“I’ve come to accept that the National Party just like to whinge and moan about things. It’s difficult to kind of have a contest of ideas with them when they don’t really seem to have any.”
The Prime Minister said the Government had been “very transparent” about those policies that won’t happen and “the things that we are taking some more time on to have another look at, to make sure we are doing the right thing”.
But he said just because the Government isn’t going ahead with some specific projects, that doesn’t mean the investment so far has gone to waste.
“The investment that we made in those policies, in many cases is going to inform what we do now. Just because we are changing direction doesn’t mean that much of that investment is wasted. Things like TVNZ and RNZ, we still have some big challenges ahead of us and so the work we have done will inform the decisions we make now.”
Also spending the day in Tauranga was Luxon, who was asked if National did just whinge and moan, as the Prime Minister put it.
He laughed and then said: “I mean, that’s a bit rich.
“We’ve just seen a Prime Minister cancel a huge amount of projects that have been a stupendous waste of time, energy and money for New Zealand. It’s been quite incredible to me that it’s been let’s do this and then let’s not do this.”
Luxon repeated his message that this was cynical politics and policies like Three Waters and the social insurance scheme – or ‘Jobs Tax’ as Luxon puts it – weren’t completely off the table.
“Chris Hipkins has been part of this Labour Government and been part of that engine room with Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson driving all of this agenda.
“It’s rather disingenuous and some clever Jedi mind trick really if you say, I have got nothing to do with that and now I believe this, I actually think it could be all about the economy. Well, where have you been for the last 15 months?”
He said he’d dispute that National has little policy, pointing to its plan to tackle inflation – which includes adjusting tax thresholds to inflation – combat gangs and deal with serious youth offenders, including by putting some in boot camps.
Changes to the Government’s agenda have been long-signalled, with former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying in December that she intended to pare back the work programme.
Hipkins on Wednesday said there’s only so much a government can do.
“I think it is an acknowledgement that governments only have so much bandwidth to take on a variety of different projects and a variety of different challenges and if you take on too many all at once – I think that is probably something we have done – you can lose focus,” said Hipkins.
“In the decisions we have taken today, you will see we are re-focusing down and we would rather do a smaller number of things, do them more thoroughly and communicate better about them.”
Also announced on Wednesday was the decision to lift the minimum wage in line with inflation.
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