David Parker says Government isn't responsible for record inflation, hits out at National's Nicola Willis in tense interview

Associate Finance Minister David Parker says the Government won't take any responsibility for record inflation. 

It comes after a new survey found 90 percent of retailers plan to up their prices in a bid to stay afloat amid inflation of 5.9 percent and increasing costs of doing business. Grocery costs are skyrocketing while petrol prices are high due to instability caused by the Ukraine invasion. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern conceded the cost of living in New Zealand is a crisis earlier in the year, after previously refusing to do so. 

But her MP isn't taking the blame. Speaking with AM on Friday Parker said while he accepts times are tough for Kiwis, he's not taking responsibility. 

"What the Opposition is trying to do is say this inflation has been caused by the Government and that we can control it in that sense and we can't and it isn't," he said. 

"It's oil prices, it's disrupted supply chains and this is a thing that is happening all around the world and the Opposition will say it's our fault - well it isn't. We are trying to respond to help people, we've slashed the tax on petrol and we are doing what we can to help."

When asked by AM co-host Ryan Bridge whether he accepted any responsibility for any of the costs imposed on businesses that could lead to inflation, Parker said no. 

"We accept responsibility as a Government to help people through this but no we haven't caused these price increases."

Businesses are blaming increased costs for the price increases such as the minimum wage increase, the doubling of sick leave, never-ending global supply chain issues as well as COVID-19. 

But despite that Parker wouldn't accept the Government could have contributed to inflation by increasing business costs. 

"What I said was, 'I don't accept the idea we've caused inflation' and I don't."

National Deputy Leader Nicola Willis, who joined Parker on AM, accused the Government of "throwing its hands up" and blaming Ukraine. 

"New Zealanders are really struggling so it's not enough for the Government to throw up its hands and say, 'This is all because of a conflict on the other side of the world'. The reality is New Zealand's inflation last year was 5.9 percent - well ahead of countries we compare ourselves with.."

Parker took issue with the statement jumping in to say, "Well that's not true". 

Willis then continued saying, "Australia at 3.5 percent. Those numbers are accurate David."

Parker butted in again to point out the US and much of Europe were also experiencing high inflation. 

"US 7 percent, Europe the same as us," he interjected. "Australia is the only one that is behind us."

Willis then continued saying a number of countries are behind us and it's only getting worse. 

"I talk to Kiwis who just feel like they're treading water. They can't get ahead, their wages aren't keeping up with the price of groceries, of rent. You know something like rent, is David really saying that because [Vladimir] Putin invaded Ukraine rents in New Zealand are at a record high?" Willis asked. 

"No I am not," Parker said before Willis interjected saying "rents have gone up $50 in the past year alone."

Parker then jumped back in taking a jab at Willis for talking too much. 

"I know you want to talk the whole time Nicola, but this is meant to be a debate."

The pair went on to bicker about what the solution to the cost of living was, with Willis calling for tax cuts while Parker accused her of increasing inequality. 

"Your answer is to give tax cuts to people like me of $8000 a year and someone who is a low-income earner $2 or $3 a week. That's the difference between you and me - you would increase inequality in your fictional solving of the inflation problem," Parker said.

The Government recently slashed petrol taxes in an effort to help struggling Kiwis. Ardern also pointed to pre-planned benefit increases and the winter energy payment as other measures. Meanwhile National is suggesting tax cuts to help ease the pressure. 

High inflation isn't unique to New Zealand with the United States hitting a 40 year high of  7.9 percent. The United Kingdom is also dealing with record inflation of 6.2 percent and the rate for the European Union reached an all-time high of 5.60 percent. Australia is the outlier with relatively low inflation of just 3.5 percent.