NZ Election 2020: Judith Collins hits back as Jacinda Ardern suggests National redo financial plan

Judith Collins has hit back at Jacinda Ardern after the Labour leader questioned whether National had budgeted enough for health in its alternative financial plan and suggested they start over. 

"What would she know?" Collins said in the West Coast on Friday. "What we do know is this: the only numbers that people need to think about are this - $3000 in the back pocket of your own money giving you a tax cut."

Collins was referring to the 16-month tax cuts National has promised if it wins the election. If you earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year you'll get between $2500 and $3500. But lower-income earners get way less - $560 to $900 if you're on $50,000.  

Labour's finance spokesperson Grant Robertson is concerned National has promised the tax cuts at the expense of things like health and education, and is warning Kiwis to expect cuts to services. 

National has left $814 million in unspent operating allowance for health in 2021, that's the extra money aside each year from the Government after collecting more tax thanks to population growth, inflation and a growing economy. 

But Robertson pumped an extra $980 million to fund district health boards (DHBs) for inflation and population changes this year, before additional costs from COVID-19 were taken into account, and he fears National hasn't budgeted enough. 

National's finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says he plans to save money by axing policies like KiwiBuild and paying for the first year of university for students.  

Goldsmith also wants to stop contributions to the NZ Super Fund, which has landed him in hot water after he admitted to miscalculating how much it would save, resulting in a $4 billion fiscal hole he described as "irritating". 

Ardern is questioning National's credibility in balancing a budget. 

"Well, as you can see, there's been a number of issues with their fiscal plan. They called a $4 billion hole immaterial - I don't. So, I think probably they need to start again," Ardern said on Friday. 

She said National hasn't budgeted enough for health. 

"No. I'll give you one example: just to keep services ticking over in our hospitals, to keep the lights on, to keep the services people expect, that took an investment from us as Government of over $900 million. National has left for everything in that first year $800 million. It just does not add up."

Collins said it's unlikely the population will grow exponentially in the next few years, despite Stats NZ data showing the population is nearing 5.1 million with Kiwis flooding back because of COVID-19. 

"Are we really going to say the population's going to be growing in a big way in the next couple of years? Is that what Jacinda Ardern's secret plan is? Mass immigration, is that her plan? I think she needs to front up," Collins said. 

National is expecting the economy to grow thanks to its tax cuts. 

"Our numbers do not take into account the fact that we very much anticipate that we can get our economy growing. It's off a very flat economy, a flat one that's been diving, so actually I'm very confident," Collins said. 

She said she still has confidence in Goldsmith. 

"It's just basically people understanding when you're looking at a plan, there's always going to be the odd thing that goes wrong, but you know what? Paul Goldsmith fronted up straight away."

The tax cuts will cost $4.7 billion, paid for from the Government's COVID-19 fund, and Ardern has accused National of "raiding" the fund, because it was set aside in case we're hit with another major coronavirus outbreak.