Auckland, May 1, 2022
It is not uncommon for media people to tail the Leader of the Opposition, especially if that person is Christopher Luxon, who can attract people and make them listen.
But it is uncommon to misquote or attribute quotes to a Leader who has been at the helm of his Party for less than six months. That is unfair.
More about this later.
Mr Luxon told an assembly of National Party Members and supporters at the Otahuhu-Panmure electorate on April 23, 2022, that if elected to govern, his primary task as the Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party would be to rebuild the economy and remove the uncertainties facing businesses so that they can concentrate on running their enterprises.
The meeting, organised by former National MP from the electorate, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi at Cosmopolitan Club in Papatoetoe, was propitious because apart from being a neighbouring electorate (he is an elected Member of Parliament from Botany), it provided an opportunity to the members of the Indian community to listen to a leader on the rise – in opinion polls and in their esteem.
He told the South Auckland Indian community that while he and his Party will hold the government to account, objectivity would be the key.
“The country is heading in the wrong direction. We are a small Nation, but we have the potential to do more and do better. We are not aspirational anymore and we are losing global opportunities to be an effective country. We have to rise, up our game and win,” he said.
Since his unanimous election as the Leader by the National Caucus on November 30, 2021, Mr Luxon has been touring the length and breadth of the country, meeting ‘everyday New Zealanders’ and understanding their state of mind and what it would take to regain their confidence and eventually their vote.
He told the Party supporters at the Papatoetoe meeting about the sombre mood of New Zealanders everywhere.
“I found frustrated people all over the country. Small businesses are suffering because the government is not listening to their concerns. Other businesses cannot cope because the borders are still shut for migrant labourers to come and fill jobs. We are losing qualified people in a global war of talent,” he said.
According to Mr Luxon, the current Labour government may have good intentions but neither the will nor the competence to effect a meaningful economic recovery.
“There is a lot of talk but no achievement. The Labour government has made promises but unfortunately, there is more spin than delivery. The Cabinet allocated $2 billion for mental health, which is great but there has hardly been any progress. The government has spent more than $102 billion in the last five years but there has been no positive impact,” he said.
He said that the current government is concentrating on centralisation and control rather than improving the lives of New Zealanders.
“Our education system has failed our children. Today, our students lack numerical and literacy skills. Our Polytechnic institutions have been taken away. Today, there are 14,000 more bureaucrats compared to the National government, costing taxpayers an additional $2 billion every year. We must reverse all these,” he said.
National Party objectives
Nr Luxon said that the objectives of the National Party are different, and policies are being drafted to rebuild the deteriorating economy and create a positive mood among the people.
“We have a lot of work to do. We are currently discussing new policy initiatives that will help businesses to operate without disturbances and uncertainties and grow. We will engage in discussions with them and other New Zealanders and understand their aspirations, difficulties and challenges and assist them to be successful. We are a great country and must maximise our potential, utilising every opportunity. We will celebrate excellence,” he said.
Rijakjit Singh Bakshi was the Master of Ceremonies at the event at which Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi also spoke, outlining the progress made by his Party in his electorate since he became a List Member of Parliament in November 2008. He had served as a Parliamentarian for 12 years until the general election in 2020 in which National received just 35 seats.
Stranded migrants overseas
The discussion time brought the inevitable question: Will the National Party allow migrant workers who are stranded in India since the borders were closed two years ago and if yes, will it renew the visas that have expired?
Renewing expired visas is a tricky issue and according to information made available to us, Mr Luxon never made any promises in this connection. At the Papatoetoe meeting, all he said was, “Erica Stanford (Immigration Spokesperson) is looking into this issue.”
Ms Stanford told Indian Newslink the following day during an informal conversation that if elected to government and if she is appointed Immigration Minister, she will work with Immigration New Zealand to see if there could be a way to allow such workers to return.
“This is not an easy issue. However, we may be able to consider issuing Visitor Visas to such people enabling them to come to New Zealand and then look for jobs. Those in areas that are declared under the ‘Skills Shortage List,’ may find it easier to obtain Work Permits. But people should not expect changes overnight,” she said.
Attracting overseas talent
But Mr Luxon believes that the government should do better to attract skilled migrants to combat an expected exodus of New Zealanders in recent months.
“As I have always said, I want New Zealand to be a Nation of Opportunities. I want businesses to thrive, our ability to become more prosperous, and I want people to enjoy a higher quality of life. I want New Zealand to be a world-leading country, a place where good enough is not good enough for us. Our ability to enjoy a higher quality of life depends on the size of our economic engine and right now, that engine needs serious upgrading,” he said.
Mr Luxon said that Finance Minister Grant Robertson must tackle the cost-of-living crisis and present a plan to bring the skyrocketing inflation under control.
“Inflation has hit a new 30-year high of 6.9%. It is a silent thief in the pocket putting New Zealanders under massive pressure and we are seeing a squeezed middle emerge. Kiwis are facing the consequences of Labour’s poor economic management, with inflation in New Zealand outpacing Australia’s and many other countries. Rents are up $150 a week since 2017, interest rates are rising, and wage increases are barely a third of inflation. Kiwis are going backwards under Labour and many families are struggling to make ends meet,” he said.
Warning over another exodus
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) warned three weeks ago that at least 50,000 New Zealanders will leave over the next year as the country reconnects with the world, following the opening of borders and removal of restrictions.
The warning came amidst an irony of factors including full employment or the lowest unemployment on record, shortage of skills set in several sectors and the demand for jobs, unmatched by supply.
Mr Luxon told the AM Report that he and his party believed in immigration and the value that migrants brought to this country over the years.
“If we want to attract the best, we have to be the best in terms of a good immigration system and a responsive Immigration New Zealand. The government must ensure that migrants feel New Zealand is a place they can make something of themselves. Currently, there is no pathway to residency for highly skilled people such as doctors and nurses,” he said.
Mr Luxon said that he would make it easier for people to get a working holiday visa.