Election 2023: National leader Christopher Luxon walks off amid questions about National's tax plan

National is still refusing to say which parts of what it calls the back office bureaucracy of government it would cut to fund its tax cuts. 

But the Council of Trade Unions has done an analysis and found the pool of money they are proposing to cut from includes the courts system, passport processing, national emergency management and search and rescue funding.  

National leader Christopher Luxon refused to answer our questions on what was off the table.

Dressed up as a pirate on Sunday, Luxon drew his sword, leaned in, and prepared to take a swipe. It will be government waste he's swiping at if he's elected.  

To pay for its tax cuts National needs to find $594 million a year to slice out of the public service. 

It's ruled out any cuts from health and education, but everything else is up to be chopped.  

So that $594 million equates to a 6.5 percent cut in spending across the other organisations.  

"We think there are significant savings to be made, particularly in the back office functions," Luxon said. 

But Craig Renney from the Council of Trade Unions has been buried in budget documents trying to find National's cuts and says the pool they have to cut from is actually much smaller. 

That's because National says it will only cut what it calls back room bureaucracy. 

"I would much sooner have nurses and midwives and doctors than communication consultants and spin doctors," Luxon said.  

The total pool of cash among the ministries up for cuts is $9.1 billion, but when Renney calculated how much of that is back office, or things labelled policy research and communications, the pool shrinks to $1.9 billion. 

To find its $594m, National would need to cut 31 percent of that. 

Inside that $1.9 billion are things like passport processing, national emergency management communications, search and rescue coordination. 

"When we look inside those cuts, it's targeting what it calls backroom bureaucracy," said Renney.  

"But in reality, when we look inside there, it's areas like the court systems, it's areas like biosecurity, it's areas like cybersecurity. Troublingly, it includes areas like family violence and sexual violence."  

The revenue-gathering elements of National's tax plan have been called fanciful by Labour.  

There are big question marks over how much their foreign buyer's tax and gambling tax will bring in. 

Renney reckons if those don't live up to expectations, there's not even enough back room spending to cut to make up for it.  

"When we say back office, that is the engine room for the frontline," said Renney. 

Luxon was more interested in fairies and pirates than answering questions on what was on or off the table for cuts on Sunday, walking off amid questions. 

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said he reckoned Luxon was still "looking for his buried treasure". 

"Maybe that is how he is going to be paying for the tax cuts that he doesn't seem to be able to explain." 

Luxon insists there's nothing make-believe in his costings. He's hoping a light sprinkling of detail and a constant state of campaign mode will get enough people on board.  

Jenna Lynch Analysis

After Christopher Luxon decided to walk away from answering questions, Newshub followed up with the National Party to see if they had done any identification of what particular agencies would or would not have to cut.

Finance spokesperson Nicola Willis said: "the direction to chief will be to protect frontline services including for example the likes of passport processing and NEMA services."

So it seems they have picked a number out of thin air that they think is a reasonable amount to cut out of the backroom operations and haven't done the proper homework and will instead leave it up to the heads of the ministries and departments to take out their swords.

But it won't be 6.5 percent across the board. Some departments will have more to cut than others and that bigger pool of money they've directed the departments to cut from is only departmental spending - so only spending the ministry does on itself. 

We should note the CTU is the same organisation which plastered attack ads about Luxon all over town this week and Renney used to work in Grant Robertson's office.

That doesn't make the analysis or the questions around what's up for chopping any less relevant.

Remember National has been promising a line-by-line review of government spending.

So get the highlighter and calculator out National - it's time for some facts behind your figures.