Grant Roberton hits back at National's 'corporate welfare' criticism of emissions plan, points out support for Air NZ when Christopher Luxon boss

Grant Robertson has hit back at National's criticism that the Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) spends too much on "corporate welfare" by highlighting government support Air New Zealand received when Christopher Luxon was its boss. 

The Labour MP on Tuesday repeatedly found himself defending the Government's partnership with business on decarbonisation as it came under attack from both National's leader and deputy

National's unhappy with $650 million from the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) being channelled into the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry fund (GIDI). GIDI sees the Government partner with process heat energy users to accelerate their business decarbonisation. The CERF is made up of revenue from the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which most polluting sectors pay into, as well as motorists.

Luxon asked Robertson whether he thought Kiwis fuelling up the pump should be "subsidising large corporates", to which the deputy Prime Minister said it was "interesting" to see National "advocating for higher costs on businesses and higher costs on Kiwis by doing absolutely nothing".

"There has always been a place in New Zealand politics for business and Government working together. For example, Air New Zealand being provided funding of $18,000 from EECA to support filters in their Auckland Airport lounge during the period around 2014, 2015, 2016."

Luxon was the Air New Zealand chief executive between 2012 and 2019. 

The National leader put it to Robertson that the Government was creating a "perverse incentive" for businesses to "delay action" on cutting emissions as "the Government will turn up with more taxpayer money to bail them out". 

But Robertson said GIDI requires businesses to contribute money themselves. 

"It actually means that they are contributing up to 50 percent of the costs and it means that we're actually supporting businesses to get on with the job of decarbonising. 

"Sure, we could take the National Party's approach and sit on our hands. On this side of the House, we want to support New Zealanders, including businesses, to decarbonise."

He went on to say reaction from businesses to the emissions plan has been strong and businesses wanted to work with government. 

"In fact, a former senior businessman said companies should be part of strengthening the place, working alongside the government, working alongside community leaders to do that. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition he talks to Christopher Luxon circa 2019."

"It's an interesting day in the House when the National Party opposes profit".
"It's an interesting day in the House when the National Party opposes profit". Photo credit: Getty Images.

Robertson also took questions from National's deputy and Finance spokesperson Nicola Willis. 

She asked about a statement in one of the ERP documents that states the Government's investment in GIDI will "promote greater business energy security and help businesses cut energy costs, allowing them to become more profitable off the back of their climate action". 

"Does he think Kiwis struggling with a cost of living crisis would agree that a priority for climate action should be making businesses more profitable," Willis asked the deputy Prime Minister. 

Robertson again remarked it was an "interesting day in the House when the National Party opposes profit". 

"This plan is an integrated plan. Part of that is making sure we get to the sources of the things that are polluting in New Zealand. Industrial heat is a big part of that. 

"We could sit on our hands, wait for the carbon price to climb up over $100, over $180, before the ETS would do what the Member thinks what it would do, or we could partner with business, making sure we do actually see initiatives that would come forward."

Willis earlier told reporters that National would present an alternative plan before the next election. 

"We will meet these emission reduction targets and we will do that in a way that is efficient, fair and practical. We don't think the Government's plan does that."

The Government doled out $2.9 billion on Monday toward initiatives within the ERP from the CERF. The ERP shows how the Government intends to cut emissions to reach the emissions budgets set out until 2035 on the way to net-zero by 2050.