Muller blasts trio of Labour MPs

Amy Adams (left), Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye announcing National's portfolio reshuffle. Photo: RNZ
Amy Adams (left), Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye announcing National's portfolio reshuffle. Photo: RNZ
The National Party's new leader Todd Muller has taken aim at three Labour ministers who he says have a record of failure.

Speaking with Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB this morning, Muller singled out Phil Twyford, Kelvin Davis and Willie Jackson for their poor performance while in government - contrasting them with his new team following a caucus reshuffle.

Muller rolled out his oft-repeated claim that the Government has "three heavy lifters and 17 empty chairs" but said it was not just a throwaway line.

"You go through the rest of the Cabinet - Twyford, Jackson, Davis, just three off the top of my head - they have a record of abject failure."

Speaking to MediaWorks on Monday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defended her team against Muller's attack, saying she had faith in them and dismissing claims of incompetence as "pure politics".

"I am going to defend my team. Strongly...People don't have to guess with us - they see us, they know us. Opposition will have to build up their own record on which people can judge them... I stand very proudly with my team."

Willie Jackson. Photo: RNZ
Willie Jackson. Photo: RNZ
Phil Twyford will now focus on urban development. Photo: VNP via RNZ
Phil Twyford. Photo: VNP via RNZ
Kelvin Davis. Photo: Getty Images
Kelvin Davis. Photo: Getty Images
Muller told Hosking this morning the Government had a record of being "high on rhetoric and low on delivery", - ticking off KiwiBuild, transport, light rail, tourism and Corrections as examples. New Zealand's attention was turning to those areas, he said.

"Understandably when we're in the middle of pandemic and it's a global crisis and you have the whole apparatus of the state focused on one single objective - locking people up in their homes and keeping us safe - they have achieved it.

"Collectively with the support of New Zealanders...and the rigour I think that the Opposition put on the Government, we have achieved that; credit where credit is due."

But he said Labour were a "dishevelled Government" when it came to economic strategy and delivery. "It's time to be serious's no more just woolly slogans."

Muller specified that a National Government would still be spending money but in a different way to Labour.

"We've signalled clearly this is the time for government to spend money - we're not in any way arguing for austerity."

National's focus would be on protecting jobs and economic recovery, primarily by giving small businesses the confidence to get up and running again.

But Muller did not give details of any new policies.

"Our approach, which we've already signalled, is cash in the hand of businesses now - the GST refund policy was an example of that, the immediate write-down of new investments...and more in that space will come," he said.

"You will see over the next period that we will put elements of our plan out to the public and I have every confidence that it's going to appeal."

Asked by Hosking if he was more liberal than people realised, Muller said that description fitted his deputy Nikki Kaye but "not so much me".

He was a "rural conservative guy" whose background was in agribusiness.

"That's the classic broad church National Party leadership style. She of course is an urban liberal from Auckland, I'm a provincial conservative living in Tauranga...I think the balance fits the National Party and I think the balance fits the country."

Asked if his leadership takeover had come sooner than expected, Muller said "most of us" had assumed they would go through to the election but in recent months it had become clear that the leadership needed examining.

He did not say what portfolio former National leader Simon Bridges would be offered but said he would "certainly" include Bridges in a Cabinet if he was pulling one together right now.

He said his colleagues and the public had been very positive in their reactions following the change. The public could see National had "an alternative vision for this government's economic carnage".



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