'I won't be lectured' - Ardern responds to Collins' housing remarks

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 26 Nov 2020, 8:00PM

'I won't be lectured' - Ardern responds to Collins' housing remarks

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 26 Nov 2020, 8:00PM

National leader Judith Collins and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have addressed MPs in the House this afternoon, after the State Opening of Parliament.

MPs were officially sworn in yesterday, but today is when both leaders set out their agenda for the coming term.

Collins started her speech by saying the Government will be held to account over its "poor spending".

She called on Ardern to address falling levels of education, and to balance the books.

But she said Ardern had a "clear mandate" and there are "no excuses this time".

She said it was good to see Grant Robertson getting the job he has been doing for three years - a clear dig at former Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

But as Collins started speaking, the two members of the Māori Party walked out.

Rawiri Waititi started addressing the speaker in Māori before Collins' speech.

Collins said Ardern was governing New Zealand in "one of the most important time in New Zealand's history".

She wished her well, but said National will be holding the Government to account.

She said the Government needs to be focused on law and order and transport among many other issues.

"These are the things Labour failed to deliver on."

Collins said there were "very few new ideas" in the speech from the throne.

She said it was like someone from Labour just reused the 2017 speech, by adding Covid-19 and taking out Kiwibuild.

In fact, Collins said it was "hard to keep a straight face" while listening to the speech.

Collins was also critical of the Government's record on crime and housing.

"The Prime Minister cannot point fingers in other directions to blame others ... she must take responsibility."

Her comments were met with agreement from her own MPs, but quiet jeers from the Government.

She called on the Government to lift children out of poverty.

Collins, as expected, directed much of her comments towards Covid-19.

She said the next three years require good fiscal management.

Collins said so far, the Government hasn't outlined a plan for the economy.

She took aim at the fact that deficits are mounting at the same time debt is climbing.

But the Government took on the debt to pay for the Covid-19 response.

She said New Zealand's debt is higher than at any time since the 1930s.

"There is no money left when the next crisis hits," she said.

This will lead to higher taxes in the future, she said.

She questioned where the money would come from for the Government to make good on its promise to reform the welfare system.

"We will hold the Government to account over its spending," Collins said.

Collins said increasing debt is not an achievement and the Government has an obligation to create good spending, not "ideological pet projects, like Green schools."

"We will hold the Government to account for its spending," she said again.

That was a key theme of her speech.

She moved on to house prices.

She said there is a "reality check" for the Government when it comes to red tape.

"It was never foreign buyers or people with Chinese sounding names," she said.

She said Labour had already wasted three years while house prices have been rising - they have been focusing on KiwiBuild and a capital gains tax.

The debate got particularly lively when talking about house prices.

"It's a disgrace … it's a sad state of affairs and it needs fixing right now," Collins said.

She called on the Government to urgently fix the RMA so there can be a "house building boom".

This, Collins said, is something National will hold the Government to account over.

She took aim at the Government's petrol taxes which she has called on Ardern to scrap.

On climate change, she attacked the Government on what she said was emissions going up over the past three years.

Collins would "hold the Government to account" over the level of emissions, not on how many things it should ban.

National would also hold the Government to account when it comes to education.

Collins said frontline police under this Government feel disrespected. She said more police officers are being shot at on the job.

In reply, a Labour MP yelled back "Strike Force Raptor".

The House got heated - the Speaker had to yell "order" as Collins yelled that the Government was "soft on crime".

She said all the Government wants to do is give criminals "a big hug".

"Soft on crime," she said again before repeating, again, that National would "hold the Government to account" when it comes to law and order.

Collins said Covid-19 "might just supercharge" New Zealand's tech sector - and called on the Government to foster and grow it.

National, she said, would work with the Government on this.

On child poverty, Collins' said the Government had failed.

Collins said everyone knows that Ardern has "good intentions".

"But good intentions are not good enough."

"We will stand up for everyday New Zealanders."

That means standing up for the small business people, those who are struggling to pay the bills.

Collins said this Government has no plan for small business - there is no vision.

Collins said the only way that this Government was helping small business, was by turning medium businesses into small businesses.

Collins said National will be standing up for the workers too.

"National will speak for these people, we will speak up for New Zealanders in this House because they deserve better than they have had."

Collins finished her speech four minutes early.

Now it was Jacinda Ardern's turn.

She began by congratulating her new MPs.

She also acknowledged the new National MPs, as well as the Greens and the Māori Party.

Ardern made a joke about the leadership prospects of those within National's new cohort - a reference at Chris Luxon.

"I am extraordinarily proud to be the leader of this Labour Party."

She said it was the most diverse Government in history.

"We have New Zealand in this place," she said.

But she said there is a big sense of responsibility.

"We will be a Government for all New Zealanders."

Ardern said New Zealand has had to find a "dramatic new normal".

She said when Covid first hit New Zealand, there was a dramatic sense of change, after change.

Ardern reflected on how she knew how hard it would be for the economy "but I knew it would be necessary".

She praised New Zealand's response to the decisions - "New Zealanders have taken it in their stride."

She said the collective action of New Zealand has been one of the most humbling experiences of her life.

For that, "We owe them our ongoing action".

She said the Government owes every single one of them to keep going.

Ardern said the Government still has a wellbeing approach, but it will be focusing on the Covid-19 recovery.

She said so long as Covid-19 is in the world, the Government needs to have a sharp focus on health.

Ardern said a push toward herd immunity was not right for New Zealand because there are "health inequalities" in the country.

She said the Government deliberately decided on a strategy of elimination.

That means that any time Covid-19 emerges, "we stamp it out".

She said "we will not co-exist with Covid-19 among us".

But that means "we all have a role to play".

As a Government, it means managing the borders, and supporting people to isolate.

It also means having an "excellent contact tracing system".

But for all New Zealanders, it means staying home when they're sick, wearing a mask on public transport and being kind.

She said New Zealanders cannot create an environment of blame.

"We will only be as successful as a New Zealand public that is willing to stay home."

"We cannot stigmatise, we must support."

Ardern cited the fact that Bloomberg had endorsed the team of five million.

She said next year, the Government will be moving toward vaccines.

But she said it will be complicated - there are many people who will need it.

"It will not happen en masse, it will not happen quickly."

She said there would be sequencing.

Next year represents an opportunity, but it also presents a risk.

But she said the recovery had already begun.

Ardern said on the economic side, things are better than expected - citing New Zealand's lower-than-expected unemployment level.

Ardern said 1.7 million people were supported through the wage subsidy scheme.

She said speed was very important to the Government.

Ardern said New Zealand needs apprentices for the rebuild.

Because of that, "we made them free".

She said the Government has doubled the number of apprentices.

Ardern said now is the time "we can make the changes we have been talking about for years".

Ardern said she would not be lectured by the leader of the Opposition, who "left us a housing crisis".

Ardern said National's response was to sell state housing - when she said this, National erupted, as did the Labour MPs.

Ardern said escalating house prices are not a plan for economic growth.

"We will keep working," she said.

She said the Government will continue its work on public housing.

"We will keep going."

Ardern said it was a "national shame" that not everyone has access to clear drinking water.

"The job is not done," Ardern said when it comes to climate change.

"Our generation cannot sit still while there is a climate crisis," she said.

"We have to keep going," she said when it comes child poverty.

But Ardern said she stands proudly on her record on child poverty.

"These are some of the harshest times for this country."

She said she is confident Labour is able to leave this place "better than we found it".

Te Pāti Māori walk out of the House after being denied the right to speak

Te Pāti Māori Co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi walked out of the House after being denied the right to speak as co-leaders in the Address in Reply debate.

"We were shocked and deeply disturbed to learn that we would not have an opportunity, as all other party leaders had, to speak in the Address In Reply debate in response to the Prime Minister's agenda – the Speaker didn't even allow our Point of Order to be heard," said Māori Party Co-leader Rawiri Waititi.

"Our Māori people clearly expressed a view that their liberated, unapologetic voice should be heard, not suppressed. These rulings are offensive to us because they represent oppression of the tangata whenua voice.

"No other party can give an unapologetic Māori response to the Prime Minister's agenda," said Waititi.

"This is yet another example of the Māori voice being silenced and ignored, something our people know all too well. We have walked out of the House to enable us to talk directly to our people about our vision and kaupapa as Te Pāti Māori," said co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

"Despite following the rules of the House and seeking a suspension to the Standing Orders, we were still denied our ability to speak in this critical first parliamentary debate.

"It's unacceptable that we are being prevented from responding to the Prime Minister's agenda for the next three years – we are the only tangata whenua party in this place and our voice must be heard on the policies that affect us," said Ngarewa-Packer.