Driven by ideology: Simon Bridges slams Government's Covid-19 package

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 17 Mar 2020, 5:16PM
The National Party leader is unimpressed with the package. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Driven by ideology: Simon Bridges slams Government's Covid-19 package

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 17 Mar 2020, 5:16PM

National Leader Simon Bridges is accusing the Government of focusing on "ideological" driven benefit increases over helping medium-sized New Zealand businesses.

Speaking in the House this afternoon in response to the Government's $12.1 billion Covid-19 spending package, National Leader Simon Bridges was critical of the spending's focus.

"This package has confused priorities that do not deal, non-ideologically, with the issues we face in New Zealand right now."

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters was quick to criticise Bridges' speech, telling the House it was "shallow and graceless".

Act Leader David has suggested that all MPs take a pay cut while New Zealand grapples with the Covid-19 outbreak in "solidarity" with those who are losing their jobs or taking pay cuts.

He said public sector workers earning more than $100,000 should do the same.

The package includes a more than $5 billion wage subsidy scheme for businesses which have been, or will be directly impacted by Covid-19.

It also included a $25 a week increase for beneficiaries and the doubling of the Winter Energy Payment.

But Bridges said the focus should have been more on businesses.

"Bluntly, what we see in this package today is money flowing faster into the hands of beneficiaries than the workers and the businesses that will lose their businesses and their jobs over the coming weeks and months."

The wage subsidy scheme is available from today – the benefit increases come into effect on April 1, with the Winter Energy Payment available in May.

"Her priority, Ardern said, was to keep businesses in business and workers in jobs – but what we see has been prioritised is the Winter Energy Payment for wealthy, older New Zealanders."

He said the package was large enough but lacked focus.

"I say this shows you're confused and your muddled priorities as Finance Minister," he said, directing his comments to Grant Robertson.

His main issue was the fact the wage subsidy scheme was capped at $150,000 per employer for 12 weeks.

He said this means that in many medium-sized businesses impacted by Covid-19, only the first 21 workers would be helped.

Bridges said many workers across the country will go on the dole – "but they will be glad because they will be $25 a week better off".

He said National would have gone harder and faster for businesses – meaning more wage subsidies for more businesses to extend to some of the bigger and middle-sized companies.

"Our Prime Minister said she's gone harder and faster – I don't see it."