PM Chris Hipkins denies Government was out of touch with now-dumped policies

The Prime Minister has rejected suggestions his Government was out of touch with some of its policies after putting a number of them on the scrap heap this week.

Chris Hipkins joined Rebecca Wright for a sit-down interview, aired on Saturday, for his first election-year interview with Newshub Nation.

Discussing the cost of living, the Prime Minister acknowledged it was a tough time for many New Zealanders. Earlier this week, Hipkins revealed a policy bonfire - announcing the dumping of multiple policies so the Government could put more focus on the cost of living crisis.

But Hipkins didn't think the Government was out of touch by putting forward those dumped policies - among them being the Clean Car Upgrade and widespread speed limit reductions - in the first place.  

"I don't think, necessarily, [we were] out of touch," Hipkins told Newshub Nation. "I think we needed to refocus and reprioritise, and that's what we've done." 

The cost of living has been skyrocketing for months, with New Zealanders spending an extra 12 percent on food from this time last year - while general consumer prices were up by 7.2 percent.  

Hipkins said the Government was working to improve the situation, highlighting increases to the minimum wage and fuel tax reduction extensions.

"These are all things that the Government has been doing to support New Zealanders through what is a really challenging set of economic circumstances."

When asked by Wright why the cost of living wasn't the Government's major focus last year while Jacinda Ardern was Prime Minister, Hipkins he didn't "want to spend my whole time looking backward".

"We have needed, at the start of this year, to say, 'look, there are things that we would like to do, but now's not the right time to do them.'"

Hipkins believed his Government had been trying to do too much at once.

"I think, if anything, we were stretching the bandwidth a bit much with too many things on the go at the same time," he said. "I think we have needed to reprioritise and refocus. That's what I've been focused on leading the Government through.

"New Zealanders' priorities have changed… [the] Government needs to make sure we are reflecting New Zealander's expectation of us."

Hipkins said he didn't want to "provide a commentary" on his predecessor Ardern but rather look forward.

When asked what was next for the Government in terms of policy, Hipkins said he wanted to lead New Zealanders through the cost of living crisis.

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

But Wright highlighted the cost of living wasn't a new problem.

"I think we have to acknowledge inflation has stayed higher for longer," Hipkins said. "If we went back a year and a half ago, most economists wouldn't have predicted that global inflation, and New Zealand inflation, was going to stay as high as it has for as long as it has."

He said the Government would focus on what it could do domestically to bring down inflation and, therefore, interest rates.

"That's going to be a significant help to household budgets and that is going to constrain Government activity, it is going to mean some of those 'nice to do' things, that we might otherwise think about doing, we won't be able to do in the short-term.

"You've already seen policy and governing from this Government, under my Prime Ministership, that is very much focused on the issues that we've got in front of us right now."

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