Todd Muller to take on small business portfolio if elected Prime Minister

Todd Muller says if he becomes Prime Minister, he'll make himself Small Business Minister as that's where he sees the fight against the COVID-19 recession being won.

Though New Zealand is on track to be one of the first countries to completely emerge from lockdown, our formerly huge tourism sector can't be relied on as the deadly disease continues to rage overseas - and it's unclear how long the borders might be shut.

Muller says small businesses will be key to the economic recovery, and they "need an advocate in Wellington".

"It's where we are as a party," he told Newshub Nation on Saturday. "We're a party of 55 MPs who have lived experience in the community and the real economy. This place in Wellington, it's a Wellington economy. Economy to me is the economy of your community. It's your main street, it's your butchers, it's your fruit grocers, it's your clothing stores. That is the real economy."

He said he's spoken to the party's current small businesses spokesperson, Todd McClay, and both Todds are fine with the change. 

"Previous Prime Ministers have had the arts, tourism - John Key had tourism," said Muller. "As Prime Minister of a National Government come September, I will be the Small Business Minister."

He said the Government's spending to keep the economy afloat has been appropriate, including the wage subsidy to discourage employers from making people redundant. But he questions the sheer amount overall, which Treasury says includes $60 billion of borrowing. 

"The question then must be, how are they directing that spend? This Government has a history of being rated on their rhetoric and rated on how much they spend - not the actual change they make on people's lives. 

"I think that is a difference between approach - which is very focused on outcomes - and their approach, which is all about 'look how much money we're spending'."

Asked by Newshub Nation host Simon Shepherd why he didn't talk about beneficiaries in his speech on Friday after taking the leadership, Muller said small businesses are his priority.

"Of course having a safety net is important - no one in this country would disagree with that, and I would be the first to support that. But what is our priority? Our priority must be to help small businesses and communities to recover, to get back up off that canvas. That's my focus, that's my team's focus, and that will be the plan that we take to the country in September. 

"I have real confidence that when we get to September, that's what the country will be focusing on, and that will turn this election into a far different debate and a tighter contest than you would imagine 128 days out from the election." 

National is currently between 25 and 30 points behind Labour, depending which poll you look at.