'Is that it?' Grant Robertson blasts Simon Bridges' 'vague and empty' economic plan

Watch Simon Bridges' speech announcing National's economic plan. Credit: Image - Getty; Video - Newshub

Simon Bridges' economic plan has been described as "vague and empty" by the Finance Minister, who blasted the National Party leader for "repeating buzz-words and tired old lines". 

Grant Robertson described the speech Bridges delivered on Monday about National's economic plan for 2020 and beyond as "the most over-hyped and under-delivered speech I can remember during my time in politics".

The Finance Minister said in a statement, "It was quite clear today that National has no new ideas. He just repeated buzz-words and tired old lines. The speech was vague and empty, and relentlessly negative."

Bridges promised in his speech to keep taxes low, keep debt low, create more jobs, and lift New Zealand's GDP, among others. 

But the details are yet to be announced, with Bridges promising National "will release a full package of policies leading up to the election which will address tax, regulation, infrastructure, small business and families". 

In an interview just before the release of the economic plan, Magic Talk's Peter Williams asked the Opposition leader why he won't confirm if tax cuts are on the party's agenda. 

Williams' question related to the tax cuts promised by the previous National-led Government that were dumped by the current Government when it came to power in 2017. Williams asked if National will reinstate those cuts. 

"You'll have to wait and see," Bridges replied. "We've got an election to win and we need to play these cats and mouse games sometimes to keep you interested."

Robertson described Bridges' remarks about playing cat and mouse with the public as "typical election year game playing from National" and said it is "not surprising". 

The Finance Minister also criticised Bridges for not mentioning climate change during his speech, describing the lack thereof as "deafening". 

"Simon Bridges has made one thing clear in the last 24 hours - he is set to keep creating the same problems we are having to fix now. He is promising tax cuts without saying what services he will cut."

Bridges also said in his speech that New Zealanders "on the average wage shouldn't be paying almost 33 percent" tax, and that they should be "keeping more of what they earn". 

But the median or middle income in New Zealand is around $53,000 and the 33 percent tax bracket only applies to earnings above $70,000 a year.  

The median wage is often cited as a better representation of what the average worker earns, because the average wage is dragged up by those on high salaries like multimillion-dollar earning CEOs.

Robertson said he is proud of the Government's record, pointing to unemployment which is at 4 percent - below the 4.7 percent when it came into power in 2017. 

"Wages have been rising at their fastest rate in a decade, at twice the rate of inflation, and our economy is growing faster than the countries we compare ourselves to." 

He also mentioned the Government's recently announced $12 billion in mainly transport-focussed projects across the country - some of which were initially put forward by National

Bridges said he is disappointed that the Government has "taken us into deficit" by borrowing the funds to make the $12 billion infrastructure investment. 

"We have to be careful about debt even in a low-interest environment. Ultimately it's you, your children and your grandchildren who have to pay it back."

Bridges said National's economic plan includes measures it will use to "hold ourselves accountable" on its economic promises.

It includes a promise to lift New Zealand's economic growth back to at least 3 percent per annum and increase New Zealand's GDP per capita growth to the top ten in the OECD. 

National is also promising to reduce the after-tax income tax gap with Australia, reduce the number of Kiwis leaving for overseas opportunities, and revive business confidence.

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