Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has announced he will lead a delegation to China, the first since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Speaking at a post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon, Hipkins said our trade links had proven “extremely resilient”.
“It’s critical we throw our support behind other industries, like gaming. One of our key objectives is to diversify our trade offerings.
“Pre-Covid-19, China was New Zealand’s largest visitor market.”
He will also attend the Nato meeting in Lithuania in July.
He said it was unlikely he’d travel to Kiev when he visits Europe.
“With borders reopening and inflation falling, we can expect to see an uplift in trade,” he said.
He said he wasn’t in a position to confirm details on his trip to China.
”I’ll be reiterating again, we’re firmly opposed to the war in Ukraine.
“I think our relationship with China is always an ongoing work in progress. I don’t think our position on a range of issues, whether it be the war in Ukraine or human rights, has been inconsistent.
“We’ve prided ourselves, in our relationship with China, on being consistent. Our relationship with China has always been based on clearly setting out our position and we will continue to do that.”
He said there was a “robust, ongoing” dialogue with China.
“New Zealand is a free and open democracy, and that is something we really value. We respect the election process in other countries.”
Trade and primary industries would be a major focus in the week ahead, he said.
He said he will be in Auckland to open the Puhoi-Warkworth motorway on Friday.
On the latest teachers’ strike, Hipkins said he was frustrated by secondary teachers’ rolling strike action.
“We would encourage them, rather than take strike action, go back to bargaining.
“The Government has been actively involved in trying to seek a resolution here.
“I do believe the offer on the table is a fair one.
“Primary school teachers voted in favour of an offer the Government sees as a fair offer.”
He rejected suggestions the Government hadn’t budged.
“As I’ve indicated, I’m not going to bargain through a public forum.”
He said there wasn’t a stalemate.
On National’s newly announced emissions policy, Hipkins said the National Party seem to be treating the climate with “contempt”.
Referring to National’s policy to reverse the ban on genetic modification, he said GE was a difficult issue.
“I don’t think we should go ploughing into that without careful consideration.
He said food exporters often marketed themselves as “GE free”, meaning any change could have implications for Kiwi exporters.
Regarding job losses at Victoria and Otago universities, Hipkins said, “We acknowledge times are tough. All the universities have seen a decline in enrolments. Their financial positions have always been bumpy - they look good when enrolments are increasing.
“I was on the Victoria University council the last time it went through this cycle. These are decisions which are best taken by the institutions.
Speaking on the Green’s proposed weath tax, Hipkins said Labour would set out its own tax policy - and bottom lines - before the election.
“I’m not going to make it up on the fly or drip it out. We’ll be very clear.
“We’ll release our tax policy well before the election.”
He said the Government had already done something about tax, targeting trusts in the Budget.
Asked about Opposition claims about a “coalition of chaos”, Hipkins said that described the National Party caucus.
Regarding Michael Wood and Jan Tinetti, Hipkins said there had been no updates on either. “I will await the outcome of that before making any judgement.
‘I want to wait for what the [Pucuniary Interests] Registrar says [on Wood], as to what happens after that - I want to allow the investigation to happen first.
Regarding Stuart Nash, he said he hadn’t been briefed on results of a review into his behaviour.
Regarding the red-stickered property buyout, he said the model the Government had established was that decisions would be made by local councils.
Speaking on hate crime laws, Hipkins said, “murder is murder, crime is crime, regardless of the motive. The issue around hate speech and hate crime is one we’ve asked the Law Commission to work on.”
Hipkins said Cabinet had discussed a paper on the ownership of Ruapehu.
“Some of these [decisions] are commercial and contractural and there are still bits remaining to go through,” he said.
Asked about the controversy surrounding RNZ stories being altered to make them pro-Russia, Hipkins said editorial independence is important, and as a listener of RNZ, he hoped the news organisation would review the editing of their stories.
On concerns about gangs in Opotiki following a homicide on Friday, Hipkins said gang activity detracted from New Zealand society. “We’ve changed the law to give police more power to crack down on gang offending.”
Hipkins is expected to face questions at his weekly press conference on how much of the Green Party’s new tax policy he would be comfortable with.
Hipkins will also be asked for his response to National’s new policies - announced on Sunday and Monday - on opening the doors more to the use of gene technology in New Zealand, as well as its agriculture emissions policy announced today.
While there was some speculation that he could also further sanction his errant minister Michael Wood for his handling of his shares in Auckland Airport - and failure to sell them despite 12 nudges from the Cabinet Office - that is unlikely to happen today as Hipkins appears to have decided to wait on the outcome of a review by the Pecuniary Interests Registrar.
It will be his first press conference since the Greens announced policy of a wealth tax of 2.5 per cent on assets over $2 million owned by individuals, or $4m on assets owned by couples. It would also lift the company tax rate, introduce a new top tax rate of 45 per cent, and adjust other tax brackets so those on higher incomes paid more, while those on lower incomes paid less.
Questions around Green Party tax policies have bedevilled Labour leaders in the past - including former PM Jacinda Ardern, who was repeatedly asked to rule in or out any form of wealth tax. The high likelihood Labour will need the Greens to have any chance of forming a government means it will be an issue this election too.
Thus far, Labour’s response has been a short statement from finance spokesman Grant Robertson, who said only that Labour would release its own tax policy soon, and noted it had already aligned the trustee rate with the top income tax rate to ensure fairness (a move in the Budget).
The Greens’ policy includes a new top tax rate of 45 per cent paid on income over $180,000, while a 39 per cent rate would apply on income above $120,000, and the 33 per cent rate would be increased to 35 per cent - paid on income above $75,000 rather than $70,000 as currently.
That would help pay for a $10,000 tax-free threshold for those on lower incomes.
All up, people earning less than $125,000 would pay less tax while those who earn more than $125,000 would pay more.
Otherwise, the agriculture sector is set to be the centrepiece of the week, as both Hipkins and National Party leader Christopher Luxon prepare to visit Fieldays with policy announcements up their sleeves.
Luxon announced National’s plan on agricultural emissions today, including saying the sector will stay out of the Emissions Trading Scheme and only face an emissions price by 2030 (currently that is 2025).
While National’s scheme would measure emissions at the farm level from 2025, farmers would only begin paying an emissions price in 2030 - set by an independent board with a right of veto from the Ministers of Climate Change and Agriculture. Under National, farmers will also be able to claim credits for on-farm sequestration (from trees on their land).
Hipkins is expected to set out Labour’s policies on the same topics while at Fieldays, as well as announce some support for farmers to help with measuring emissions.
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