Bill English: The Election pitch gets louder

Venkat Raman
August 31, 2017
Video Recording by Indian Newslink as the Prime Minister speaks to us


Stand First: We awaited the outcome of the First TV Debate between the Leaders of the two main Parties- Bill English of National and Jacinda Ardern of Labour which concluded at 8 pm on TV One hosted by Mike Hosking.

The Result: Love All.

Prime Ministers of New Zealand have one common trait- they do not parry questions and take the harshest comment with a grin. On that score, Bill English has shown substantial improvement from his years as the Finance Minister and more so from his years as the Leader of the Opposition.

Latest Poll

A conversation with Mr English always treads on the positive territory. Of course, when I met him earlier this morning, the bad news for National was not out- that Labour had overtaken it in the latest 1 News Colmar Brunton Poll to 43% (National had dropped to 41%). Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern was the Most Preferred Prime Minister at 34% with Mr English trailing close at 33%.

Whether he had an insight to the new Poll or not, Mr English was at his ‘coolest best’ during the Indian Newslink interview, articulating how well the National-led government has performed since November 2008 and how, since economic recovery in 2010-2011, there has been no holding back.

“New Zealand is going in the right direction and this campaign is all about the country going in the right direction; the question is whether we can continue with that and the benefits that come from a strong economy, which in turn comes from a government’s well managed finances,” he said at the outset.

Conservative to Magnanimous

As Finance Minister (November 2008 to December 2016) Mr English was conservative, tight on money but as Prime Minister, he and his government have indulged in magnanimity. From the biggest pay equity settlement costing $2 billion to care and health support workers and $1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund to build more houses in Auckland, Hamilton, Waikato, Tauranga and Queenstown to opening up trade opportunities for small and medium enterprises in Europe, China and emerging markets, he was confident that the economy would be the greatest beneficiary.

“While other parties are planning to impose more taxes, National will not only reduce taxes but also put money in people’s pockets- between $20 and $26 every week.

Sustainable Surpluses

“We are a busy government and now that we have sustainable government surpluses, these are the things that we can do. We can get more projects like Waterview in Auckland, we can build phonelines from Hastings to Napier, now that Hastings is growing, we can roll out broadband to some of the smallest cities in New Zealand, we can recruit more police, and we can help those with the lowest incomes and highest rents,” he said.

There was then the inevitable question on immigration.

Does New Zealand need more migrants and from where would they come? Would everyone get permanent residence?

Mr English was categoric on the need to have more migrants.

“We need people to build houses, we need skilled people like carpenters, electricians and plumbers for the next three or four years. Many of them would of course return to their home countries and some of the skilled workers we need can stay back,” he said.

There was nothing explicit about the source of migrants. Much of the immigration policy announcements would come after the general election but the immigration regime, irrespective of the Party in power, will move cautiously, not wanting to repeat the blunders of the past few years.

Please listen to the Video and listen to Bill English – you will get to know the latest thinking around the Treasury benches.

From all points of view, the forthcoming election would be a trendsetter for New Zealand and determine which way the country would go – change course with Labour or continue the journey with National.

Opinion polls are stated to be indicators of public mood and on this score, the fortunes of National and Labour have tended to swing with volatility.

The game is open, wild and anybody’s guess as of today.

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