Coronavirus: 'Mark my words... there will be new taxes' - Simon Bridges' warning over COVID-19 borrowing

Simon Bridges has a new line to describe this week's Budget: "a rudderless ship in a sea of debt".

He variations of the phrase several times in an interview on Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"It seems to me we're like a rudderless ship in a sea of debt, and the reason we're rudderless is we don't have the plan and we didn't see the plan and the budget for jobs and for growth," he told host Simon Shepherd in the first minute.

Two minutes later he said: "My view was we are like a rudderless ship, as I say, wallowing in that sea of debt, that that plan just isn't there." 

"A ship that is rudderless, wallowing on a sea of debt," he added at the 10th minute. 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson's Budget, released on Thursday, has set aside $50 billion - most of it likely in borrowing - to help the country recover from the impact of COVID-19. 

Nearly half of it hasn't even been allocated yet, the Government is waiting to see how the next few months play out. New Zealand appears to have largely eliminated community transmission of the deadly virus, which has killed more than 300,000 people worldwide and caused economic chaos, as other countries shut down businesses and travel.

"It's going to be spent over a number of years, and it is not just about restoring exactly where we were," Robertson told Newshub Nation earlier in the show. 

"I think most New Zealanders would recognise that, you know, we're a great country, but we didn't have everything 100 percent right before COVID-19, and as we do that rebuild, we need to make sure we address some of those issues."

The big focus will be on jobs. Before the pandemic hit, New Zealand had one of its lowest unemployment rates in a decade at 4.2 percent - but it's tipped by Treasury to rise to almost 10 percent this year.

Bridges, the leader of the Opposition, said while there were "some good things" in the Budget, it equates to $80,000 in debt for every family in Aotearoa.

"It seems to me that with a Labour-led government, that inevitably means more tax."

Simon Bridges on Newshub Nation.
Simon Bridges on Newshub Nation. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

The Budget didn't include any new taxes, but the Government hasn't ruled them out, going into this year's election campaign. 

Bridges said the National Party showed it could be trusted to handle a crisis like COVID-19 after the global financial crisis and the Christchurch earthquakes - when it too borrowed billions, after cutting income taxes.

"No one is saying austerity. We understand the requirement for some debt to do some investment and to make New Zealand stronger. But you can have too much of a good thing and have a $50 billion fund."

New Zealand Government debt to GDP spiked from 13.6 percent in 2010 to almost 26 percent by 2013. Treasury figures show the National-led Government borrowed tens of billions over a few years to soften the impact of the global financial crisis. By 2019, debt was back down to 19.2 percent of GDP - relatively low by international standards. This year's borrowing will likely push it to levels unseen since the early 1990s.

"How will New Zealand as a nation repay that debt?" said Bridges.

"Now, sure, we all want and I have plans for jobs and for growth. That will be part of the answer. But what is also true and what we know about Labour is they... instinctively tax - you mark my words, the kindness to be gone this time next year if Labour's the Government... there will be new taxes."