Simon Bridges won't confirm tax cuts on National's agenda

Peter Williams 17/02/2020

Simon Bridges is promising to "keep taxes low" if he becomes leader, but is yet to confirm a tax cut policy, admitting "playing cat and mouse games" keeps the public interested. 

In an interview just before the release of National's economic plan, Magic Talk's Peter Williams asked the Opposition leader why he won't confirm if tax cuts are on the party's agenda. 

The Opposition leader announced National's economic plan for "2020 and beyond" on Monday, which includes promises to keep taxes low, keep debt low, create more jobs, and lift New Zealand's GDP, among others. 

But the details are yet to be announced, with Bridges promising National "will release a full package of policies leading up to the election which will address tax, regulation, infrastructure, small business and families". 

Williams' question related to the tax cuts promised by the previous National-led Government that were dumped by the current Government when it came to power in 2017. Williams asked if National will reinstate those cuts. 

"You'll have to wait and see," Bridges replied. "We've got an election to win and we need to play these cats and mouse games sometimes to keep you interested."

Bridges added: "What I can say though, is we've been clear we will index tax brackets and repeal the [Auckland] regional fuel tax, and we won't introduce new taxes."

Under National's previously announced model, you wouldn't move into higher tax brackets when your income isn't keeping up with the rising cost of living.

National would amend the Income Tax Act so that tax thresholds are adjusted every three years to keep tax in line with the cost of living. Treasury would then advise the Government on how much it should be adjusted for inflation. 

Bridges said in his speech on Monday that New Zealanders "on the average wage shouldn't be paying almost 33 percent" tax, and that they should be "keeping more of what they earn". 

National's economic plan includes measures it will use to "hold ourselves accountable" on its economic promises.

It includes a promise to lift New Zealand's economic growth back to at least 3 percent per annum and increase New Zealand's GDP per capita growth to the top ten in the OECD. 

National is also promising to reduce the after-tax income tax gap with Australia, reduce the number of Kiwis leaving for overseas opportunities, and revive business confidence. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has maintained that despite a declining global economy, New Zealand's economy "remains in good shape compared to much of the rest of the world". 

In her statement to Parliament last week, she said the Government books are "in a strong position". 

She also argued that when the Coalition Government came to office it faced an "infrastructure deficit", where "schools, hospitals and railways" were "neglected". 

Through the recently announced New Zealand Upgrade Programme the Government is investing $12 billion in mainly transport-focussed projects across the country - some of which were initially put forward by National

Bridges said he is disappointed that the Government has "taken us into deficit" by borrowing the funds to make the $12 billion infrastructure investment. 

"We have to be careful about debt even in a low interest environment. Ultimately it's you, your children and your grandchildren who have to pay it back."

Magic Mornings 9am-midday / Newshub reporter Zane Small