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Watch live: 'No undue influence'- Seymour hits back at claims about tobacco industry

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 1 Feb 2024, 2:35PM

Watch live: 'No undue influence'- Seymour hits back at claims about tobacco industry

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 1 Feb 2024, 2:35PM

Act leader David Seymour has taken his first turn filling in as Prime Minister during Question Time today while deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is in Australia.

The deputy usually fills in for the PM on a Thursday and Christopher Luxon is in Auckland today. Peters’ absence means the honours fall to Seymour for the first time.

During Question Time, Labour continued to pressure the Government on the actions of Associate Health Minister Casey Costello and the party policies she provided to officials to assist in developing smoking-related strategies.

Labour deputy leader Carmel Sepuloni asked Seymour to assure the House no members associated with the tobacco industry were involved in the development of the policy documents given to officials.

Seymour began by saying he had received assurances from all coalition partners that they had had no funding from the tobacco industry and added there had been “no undue influence” from anyone from the industry on Government policies.

Labour complained to the Speaker he had avoided the question, to which Seymour repeated how he was confident there was no undue influence.

The Opposition parties continued to argue for a better response to the question as National argued the party policies were not something that the Acting PM should have to answer for. The Speaker said he would reflect on the matter and make a decision next week.

Sepuloni tried to probe further, asking about whether Seymour was confident all conflicts of interest had been declared by ministers and when Luxon would dismiss Costello from her ministerial portfolios - something also called for by Labour’s Dr Ayesha Verrall.

Seymour said he was confident conflicts had been declared and was assured Sepuloni would come to see the value Costello had as a minister.

It comes as the Government announced the minimum wage increase for the year would be 2 per cent, a much smaller increase than in recent years. Workplace Relations Minister Brooke van Velden announced it would increase by 2 per cent to $23.15 an hour from April 1, 2024.

Van Velden said New Zealand’s minimum wage was higher than in many OECD countries and increases under Labour had far outstripped the consumers price index (CPI).

“Between June 2016 and June 2023, overall, the minimum wage increased at nearly twice the rate of inflation, with a 48.8 per cent increase in the minimum wage and a 25.1 per cent increase in CPI. This Government’s approach sets the balance right.”

Other highlights of question time are likely to be NZ First’s Associate Health Minister Casey Costello again facing questions about whether she sought advice from officials on freezing the excise on tobacco products, after an RNZ story claiming her own notes from a meeting showed she had done so. Costello has denied being the one who wrote the notes.

Police Minister Mark Mitchell is also set to be interrogated again on this week’s backtrack over whether a coalition agreement promise to recruit and train 500 more police than normal would be done over two years or three years.

Mitchell has said he got it wrong when he said three years rather than two years - but has pointed to the difficulties police had raised about delivering on it in the two-year timeframe.

The police briefing to the incoming minister, released this morning, canvassed the difficulties in attrition and recruitment.

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