Nicola Willis won't say if National could support ACT's policy ideas in government

Nicola Willis says it's "far too early" to be discussing what policies of other parties National may support if it can form a government after the next election, as ACT doubles down on a raft of proposals it says will cut tax and bureaucracy. 

The National Party deputy leader was in Christchurch on Monday where she spoke to the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce about the party's expectations for the upcoming Budget and the three priorities it will be assessing it against.

She wants to see relief for the "squeezed middle", value for money, and a plan for delivering outcomes when Grant Robertson hands down the Budget next week.

"The focus of spending should always be on outcomes, not on the spending itself. It's simply not good enough to make the promise, print the press release, spray the cash and walk away," Willis said.

National will release an alternative budget before next year's election, Willis said, but ACT's already done so. The centre-right party, which National would likely need to form a government with, wants a major overhaul of our tax system, an increase in defence spending to 2 percent of GDP and the number of bureaucrats reduced to 2017 levels. 

Willis wouldn't say on Monday what she thought of those policies and whether National could support them in any future government with ACT.

"National is focused on putting forward the policies we believe are best for New Zealand and will deliver a strong economy and higher incomes," Willis said. 

"Any discussions about which parties we work with and their policies, it's far too early for anything like that. We will be waiting for what voters deliver, and in the meantime, working our hardest to earn every vote we can."

Nicola Willis.
Nicola Willis. Photo credit: Newshub.

National has its own tax policy of adjusting thresholds to match the rise in inflation. It's also previously said it was looking at the idea of increasing defence spending to 2 percent of GDP, something other countries are doing off the back of the war in Ukraine. 

The party's also rallied against bureaucracy, with Willis on Monday saying she wants to see a Government that is "less bureaucratic, more flexible, more responsive and that harnesses technology and data to provide more bang for buck".

Part of ACT's plan for reduced expenditure is abolishing "demographic ministries", like the Ministry for Women, Ministry of Māori Development and Ministry for Ethnic Communities. 

"Most of these ministries replicate work which should already be done in policy ministries or the Ministry of Culture and Heritage," ACT's budget says. "Any additional influence they do have over Government policy is likely to be in the damaging direction of undermining the unity of New Zealand as a modern multicultural society."

Asked whether she supports abolishing the Ministry for Women, Willis said: "That is not something that we have had on the table."

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll released last Tuesday showed that together National and ACT were a whisker away from having a majority of seats in the House, with 51 and eight respectively. To have a majority, 61 seats are required. Both National and Act, and Labour and the Greens would need the Māori Party to govern. The Māori Party has ruled out working with ACT.