Hipkins fends off pincer attack by Luxon and Seymour in Parliament


Prime Minister Chris Hipkins (Photo :WikiCommons)

Venu Menon
Wellington, August 22,2023

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins made a spirited defence of his government’s track record in office while going head-to-head with Leader of the Opposition Christopher Luxon of the National Party and ACT leader David Seymour in Parliament on Tuesday.

Hipkins highlighted the removal of the $5 prescription charge, “which has seen 900,000 New Zealanders receive almost three million free prescriptions.” He referenced the extension of   20 hours’ free early childhood education, targeted childcare assistance, making public transport permanently free for children under the age of 13 and “half-price for more than a million people.”

Taking a swipe at National, Hipkins said removing prescription charges was a practical measure to support families with economic pressures “whilst laying the foundations for a better future for the country – without making inflation worse, as unfunded tax cuts for the wealthiest would.”

But Luxon wanted to know why New Zealand was “the only country in the Asia-Pacific region [that was] in recession?” While acknowledging the country had a “technical recession,” Hipkins said it was the effect of the cyclone [Gabrielle] “on our primary producers.”

When asked why inflation in New Zealand was twice the rate of the US, Canada, and Japan, Hipkins said, “New Zealand’s inflation rate won’t be exactly the same as others around the world,” adding, “Australia, of course, were lower than New Zealand for a long period of time and then peaked higher and later than New Zealand in their inflationary cycle.”

However, the PM noted that “inflation has been a global problem over the last 18 months.” Hipkins informed the House that “Treasury would be releasing their pre-election fiscal update.”

The prime minister cited population expansion when asked why there were 55,000 more people in the “jobseeker benefit than when Labour took office, including 8,000 more in just the last four months?”

ACT leader David Seymour then raised his pet concern about government spending, which resulted in a back-and-forth between Hipkins and Seymour, during which the prime minister accused the member of “trying to demonise a large segment of New Zealand society – that have too often been kicked around for political benefit by members who sit on that side of the House.”

Luxon rose to his feet citing the statistic that “almost 35,000 Kiwis have voted with their feet and left New Zealand over the last year.”

Hipkins acknowledged that “post-Covid, some people left and some people came back. Overall, 87,000 more people are in the country now since we’ve opened the borders than there were before.”

Before closing his heated exchange with the Opposition members, Prime Minister Hipkins listed the positive outcomes delivered by his government over six years. He said more New Zealanders were in work than ever before, had better access to healthcare, that 77,000 fewer New Zealand children were living in poverty, that there were record levels of renewable energy generation, that New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions had reduced, that more of New Zealand exports have been covered under free-trade agreements, that there were more New Zealanders in apprenticeships, that there were more classrooms to accommodate roll growth “so that kids aren’t learning in hallways, libraries, and gymnasiums,  as they were when we came into Government,” that  more State houses had been built than [by] any government since the 1950s.”

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

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