Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson and his National counterpart Nicola Willis have clashed in a fiery finance debate this morning.
Both politicians are vying to be the next finance minister as part of the next government.
Robertson and Willis both reiterated key attack lines on one another’s economic credibility as they took part in Q+A’s Finance Debate — moderated by Jack Tame.
Watch the full debate on TVNZ+
‘Six weeks before an election!’
Robertson faced questions over the Labour Government’s financial credibility as Chris Hipkins’ “bread and butter” drive hit the road over the past seven months.
Labour’s finance spokesperson was questioned about the PREFU’s forecast that the Government’s operating allowances would have to be lower than last year’s budget for the next 15 years — in real terms.
“The reason it’s credible is because we cut our cloth for the situation we were in. We were in a period of time where we needed to support New Zealanders,” he said.
“Nicola and her colleagues often asked me to spend more, then we were in a period of time where inflation was high. Inflation comes down, and we’ve already shown so you want to go to credibility.
“We’ve already said we will take that $4 billion worth of savings out.”
Willis interjected: “Six weeks before an election!
“You worked out you’d be spending far too much on backroom bureaucracy, and now you’re expecting us to believe you’re a man of discipline.”
Last month, the Government announced it would push ahead with nearly $4 billion in savings as it planned to cut consultant and contractor spending over a four-year period.
Willis said a National government would hit surplus earlier than a Labour government, but not necessarily before 2027.
“Labour are expecting you to believe that they will deliver a surplus in 2027,” she said.
“That’s based on Grant, for the first time in his entire time as a finance minister, sticking to his operating allowances.
“He’s not going to do that, he’s already delayed surplus three times.
When pushed on a commitment, she said: “I’m not making that commitment today (returning to surplus before 2027). What I’m making a commitment on is we will hit surplus earlier than Labour would because we will stick to our spending discipline.”
‘All of this is just words’
Willis faced more questions about holes in National’s tax plan — which economists and other economic experts have called into question.
“Of course there are spreadsheets!” she exclaimed when pushed.
“But Grant’s not releasing spreadsheets.”
She said Labour should equally release the costings for its policy to remove GST from fruit and vegetables.
The finance spokesperson came equipped to the debate with a pile of papers — which she held up when arguing her case.
She said there had been “misinformation” about her party’s tax plan.
“There has been misinformation about this,” Willis said.
Robertson said in response: “National’s tax plan relies on $20 billion of land and housing to offshore buyers. That is not credible. All of this is just words. It’s an inflationary policy.
“It’ll push up the price of housing and it’s simply not credible. If Nicola is going to deliver on the commitments she’s just made, they will have to make even deeper cuts into public services. This policy doesn’t add up.”
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