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Christopher Luxon compares Labour to arsonists in fiery speech

Thomas Coughlan,
Publish Date
Sun, 19 May 2024, 1:23pm

Christopher Luxon compares Labour to arsonists in fiery speech

Thomas Coughlan,
Publish Date
Sun, 19 May 2024, 1:23pm

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon compared the Labour opposition to arsonists in a fiery speech to supporters in Palmerston North this morning.

Luxon said that Labour’s questions to him each Parliamentary sitting week were “a bit like an arsonist returning to the scene of a fire that they started and then criticising the fire brigade for the means by which it is extinguishing the fire.

“It’s a surreal experience to go through, I’ve got to be honest with you,” he said.

Luxon and his speechwriters appeared to have firefighting on their mind when drafting the speech; later on, Luxon repeated the metaphor, but this time with the roles reversed. He accused Labour of “fire-hosing money around”.

The speech, which was delivered to National’s regional conference for the combined central and lower North Island regions, did not include any announcements for the forthcoming Budget, but reiterated promises already made.

He promised funding increases for “health, education, law and order, and disability services”.

He also promised the Budget’s tax changes would “increase the take-home pay of 83 per cent of New Zealanders over the age of 15″, a figure his deputy Nicola Willis used in her own pre-Budget speech.

Luxon rehearsed some of his achievements “to cut red tape” and moves such as abolishing Labour’s prisoner reduction target.

“We fundamentally believe a drop in prisoners should happen because we have a drop in crime - it’s a novel idea, but we think it makes sense,” Luxon said.

He pledged again to deliver 500 new police officers over the next two years, part of National’s deal with NZ First, but which could be difficult to achieve.

Luxon was applauded for the Government’s phone ban.

“[It’s a] simple, commonsense, practical idea from the National Party..., but lo and behold it turns out kids are actually talking to each other. It’s a novel idea... the noise level in playgrounds has gone up and there’s a lot less cyber bullying as a result of kids getting off the phones,” Luxon said.

With its audience of mainly party activists, the speech was mainly designed to thank members for their work during the campaign and to keep them excited for the party’s work in government. The speech was replete with “thank yous”.

Taking questions after her own speech, Willis confirmed that she “will be increasing funding for disability services significantly” in the Budget.

“How a Budget treats its most vulnerable is really, really important,” she said.

Willis said the Government’s social investment approach would make a comeback in a significant way. She said a large number of her Cabinet colleagues had asked to be involved in her social investment style of delivering social services.

Willis faced a curly question from a National MP in the Otaki electorate, which is just north of Wellington. The member asked: “all those Government employees that you don’t want anymore, the thousands of them, where are they going to go?”

Willis acknowledged that she felt for each public servant who was let go during the recent round of cuts. She said some would be redeployed to the front line.

“I do know that some of them will find jobs in the public service... we are creating frontline roles,” Willis said.

She said businesses she had spoken to in the Wellington region had found it difficult to hire staff to grow because talent was being poached by the public sector.

“The public sector could pay those people more than the business could and that was holding them back,” she said.

She said part of creating a more innovative economy was to “not have all our smartest people working for the Government’.

“I want some of those people working in our small and medium businesses creating value in other ways, and I am absolutely confident that those people will find opportunities,” Willis said.

Thomas Coughlan is Deputy Political Editor and covers politics from Parliament. He has worked for the Herald since 2021 and has worked in the press gallery since 2018.

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