Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has unveiled his government’s 100-day plan, amid pressure from Labour leader Chris Hipkins to rein in Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters over his false claims about media.
Luxon had his first Cabinet meeting yesterday, which was mainly a photo opportunity. Addressing media this afternoon, Luxon, the leader of the National Party, said it had been a “very busy three days” since the coalition government was sworn in on Monday.
During the Cabinet meeting, Luxon said he had laid out his expectations to “get things done for the New Zealand people”.
Almost everyone was struggling with the cost of living, he said, and today's Reserve Bank forecast had signalled it could get tougher.
The central bank today left the official cash rate (OCR) unchanged at 5.5%, warning that inflation remained too high and monetary policy would remain restrictive. Its forecast interest rate track suggested no rate cuts were on the horizon until mid-2025, putting the RBNZ at odds with market expectations, which had started to price in cuts from May 2024.
It includes pledges of coalition partners New Zealand First and Act, including one to scrap Labour’s Smokefree policy in a bid to fund tax cuts and a change in the way the government interacts with the World Health Organisation.
NZ First forced National to agree to “lodge a reservation against adopting amendments to WHO health regulations to allow the government to consider these against a ‘national interest test’”.
Peters has also extracted an agreement to stop work on He Puapua, the report on implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). He Puapua was written for the government when Peters was last in office from 2017 to 2020, though he now alleges Labour hid it from him. Work stopped on the report after it was delivered to ministers.
Former Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson was tasked with implementing the Labour government’s response to UNDRIP, but stopped work on that prior to Dame Jacinda Ardern leaving as Prime Minister.
The plan also says National will scrap Labour’s prison population reduction target, something former Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis himself scrapped on the campaign.
Other more conventional parts of the 100-day plan have survived. National will begin working on a new road-focussed GPS on land transport and cancel Labour’s fuel tax hikes, and begin extending the breast cancer screening age to 74.
Luxon told media today that the three parties had gone through their policies line-by-line to get to the 100-day plan and were determined to get it done.
He said it was “incredibly disappointing” to see the Reserve Bank signal it could need to raise the cash rate. He said it was due to “economic vandalism on a scale not seen before” by the previous Labour government.
To reduce inflation domestically, Luxon said they would set about reducing government spending. He had met with the Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr yesterday and said they were “united” on fighting inflation.
The 100-day plan
REBUILDING THE ECONOMY AND EASING THE COST OF LIVING
1. Stop work on the Income Insurance Scheme.
2. Stop work on Industry Transformation Plans.
3. Stop work on the Lake Onslow pumped hydro scheme.
4. Begin efforts to double renewable energy production, including a national policy statement on renewable electricity generation.
5. Withdraw central government from Let’s Get Wellington Moving.
6. Meet councils and communities to establish regional requirements for recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle and other recent major flooding.
7. Make any additional Orders in Council needed to speed up cyclone and flood recovery efforts.
8. Start reducing public sector expenditure, including consultant and contractor expenditure.
9. Introduce legislation to narrow the Reserve Bank’s mandate to price stability.
10. Introduce legislation to remove the Auckland fuel tax.
11. Cancel fuel tax hikes.
12. Begin work on a new government policy statement reflecting the new roads of national significance and new public transport priorities.
13. Repeal the clean car discount scheme by December 31, 2023.
14. Stop blanket speed limit reductions and start work on replacing the Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2022.
15. Stop central government work on the Auckland light rail project.
16. Repeal the Fair Pay Agreement legislation.
17. Introduce legislation to restore 90-day trial periods for all businesses.
18. Start work to improve the quality of regulation.
19. Begin work on a national infrastructure agency.
20. Introduce legislation to repeal the Water Services Entities Act 2022.
21. Repeal the Spatial Planning and Natural and Built Environment Act and introduce a fast-track consenting regime.
22. Begin to cease implementation of new significant natural areas and seek advice on operation of the areas.
23. Take policy decisions to amend the Overseas Investment Act 2005 to make it easier for build-to-rent housing to be developed in New Zealand.
24. Begin work to enable more houses to be built, by implementing the going for housing growth policy and making the medium density residential standards optional for councils.
RESTORING LAW AND ORDER
25. Abolish the previous government’s prisoner reduction target.
26. Introduce legislation to ban gang patches, stop gang members gathering in public and stop known gang offenders from communicating with one another.
27. Give police greater powers to search gang members for firearms and make gang membership an aggravating factor at sentencing.
28. Stop taxpayer funding for section 27 cultural reports.
29. Introduce legislation to extend eligibility to offence-based rehabilitation programmes to remand prisoners.
30. Begin work to crack down on serious youth offending.
31. Enable more virtual participation in court proceedings.
32. Begin to repeal and replace part 6 of the Arms Act 1983 relating to clubs and ranges.
DELIVERING BETTER PUBLIC SERVICES
33. Stop all work on He Puapua.
34. Improve security for the health workforce in hospital emergency departments.
35. Sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Waikato to progress a third medical school.
36. By December 1, 2023, lodge a reservation against adopting amendments to WHO health regulations to allow the government to consider these against a ‘‘national interest test’’.
37. Require primary and intermediate schools to teach an hour of reading, writing and maths per day starting in 2024.
38. Ban the use of cellphones in schools.
39. Appoint an expert group to redesign the English and maths curricula for primary school pupils.
40. Begin disestablishing Te Pūkenga.
41. Begin work on delivering better public services and strengthening democracy.
42. Set five major targets for the health system, including for wait times and cancer treatment.
43. Introduce legislation to disestablish the Māori Health Authority.
44. Take first steps to extend free breast cancer screening to those aged up to 74.
45. Repeal amendments to the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990 and regulations.
46. Allow the sale of cold medication containing pseudoephedrine.
47. Begin work to repeal the Therapeutics Products Act 2023.
48. Establish a priority one category on the social housing waitlist to move families out of emergency housing into permanent homes more quickly.
49. Commission an independent review into Kainga Ora’s financial situation, procurement and asset management.
Leader of the House Chris Bishop said Parliament would start at 11am on Tuesday with the election of the new Speaker. National would nominate senior MP Gerry Brownlee.
On Wednesday at 11am, MPs would meet for the state opening and Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro's speech to open the 54th Parliament.
Other presiding officers would be elected, followed by the response from MPs - particularly, the party leaders.
The first Question Time would be held on Thursday at 2pm followed by the continuation of the address in reply debate.
"There are 42 maiden speeches in the new Parliament," Bishop said. "Not all the maiden speeches will be able to be done this side of Christmas."
During the last two weeks before Christmas, the government would move urgency for a range of bills, the first being to return the Reserve Bank to a single mandate of fighting inflation.
It also intended to move a bill to repeal Fair Pay Agreements, reforms to the Resource Management Act, the Clean Car Discount and introduce and refer to select committee a bill to reintroduce 90-day work trials.
PIJF fund and call to rein in Peters
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has spent the last three days in a self-described “war” with the media, accusing them of accepting bribes from the former Labour government.
On Monday, just after being sworn at Government House, he claimed RNZ and Television New Zealand were not independent, before saying: "You can't defend $55 million of bribery".
The remark was a reference to the Public Interest Journalism Fund (PIJF), a three-year $55 million contestable fund for journalists initially established to shore up public interest media during Covid-19. He has been unable to substantiate his claims.
And ahead of the Cabinet meeting, Peters asked media who were filming it to “tell the public what you had to sign up to to get the money, it’s called transparency”.
Hipkins today used his first news conference as Opposition leader to accuse Luxon of already having lost control of his government. Speaking at Parliament, he said Peters' accusations about media bribery this week were "just wrong" and urged Luxon to take action.
But this afternoon Luxon declined to condemn Peters' bribery allegations, telling media: "It was not the way I would have expressed it” but that he was “frustrated” by the fund as well.
Luxon said National had not agreed with the fund, as he thought it had led to perceptions of bias “rightly or wrongly”.
Asked about Hipkins’ comment that Luxon needed to “rein in” Peters, he said he didn’t listen to the Labour leader.
“He’s a desperate man at the moment.”
Luxon disagreed it had been a messy start to his government and with any assertion that Peters had undermined him.
Yesterday, when asked about Peters' comments before the Cabinet meeting, Luxon said he had not seen them and then ignored a follow-up question.
Later, as reporters prepared to leave, Peters interjected: "Before you go, can you possibly tell the public what you had to sign up to, to get the money. Before you ask one more question, tell the public what you signed up to, to get the money. It's called transparency, okay? Thank you very much. Thank you."
Asked whether that was appropriate, Luxon again ignored the question.
Hipkins questions if PM in control
Hipkins today said Luxon needed to show some leadership over Peters' comments.
"Christopher Luxon needs to show that he is actually the Prime Minister and stamp down on that very quickly. It is wrong for Winston Peters to be stepping outside the Cabinet manual at the very meeting where they were supposed to be confirming the Cabinet manual.
"It's also wrong for him to be questioning and potentially directing Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand when they have legislative editorial independence. I think that the Prime Minister needs to show some leadership, make it clear to Winston Peters that that is unacceptable and make sure that that stops."
When asked how he would respond to Peters' behaviour if he were Prime Minister, Hipkins replied: "I wouldn't have got myself into the situation in the first place, made it very clear before the election that I did not think Winston Peters was fit for government.
"I don't think that he [Luxon] should simply say, 'Oh, I haven't seen the comments. I'm not going to comment on it.' That is his job. He is the Prime Minister. The comments that his ministers make are his responsibility."
Hipkins suggested Luxon was not in control of his government.
"Look, I'm not entirely clear that Christopher Luxon is really in control of what's going on within the government...and they're only a couple of days in. It does not bode well for the future."
'We are a global embarrassment' - Verrall
Speaking at the same press conference, Labour's health spokesperson Ayesha Verrall described the coalition government's plans to repeal some smokefree laws as "absolutely disgusting".
The coalition agreements between National, New Zealand First, and ACT will repeal laws which would restrict the number of retailers, reduce nicotine levels, and ban anyone born after January 2009 from ever buying tobacco.
"We've known for decades that smoking is incredibly harmful for health and you've seen that reflected in the widespread condemnation of the smokefree changes proposed by this government."
Verrall said the move would damage New Zealand's international reputation.
"Internationally, we're seeing headlines reflect the fact that we are a global embarrassment for rolling back these laws."
This would be the first time anti-smoking legislation would be repealed, Verrall said.
"That is why health officials, health leaders around the country have been so shocked. They didn't expect National to go and do something like this, something that has been an area of bipartisan consensus for so long."
Hipkins will reveal his shadow Cabinet tomorrow, but has confirmed Grant Robertson will stay on as Labour's finance spokesperson and Verrall will keep the health portfolio.
He confirmed every MP in his caucus will be assigned a portfolio.
- NZ Herald and RNZ