English comes out swinging as he defends campaign

“Look around,” Mr English said, “don't you wish you had shares in the orange cone company." He also addresses 'fiscal hole.'

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Prime Minister Bill English says public perception is on his side when it comes to the ‘fiscal hole’ stoush, despite a wealth of experts siding with Labour.

Mr English has also warned voters that electing a Labour-led government is essentially “voting for a committee” and would be handing its leader Jacinda Ardern a “blank cheque.”

The National Party leader defiantly defended his party’s campaign when he talked to NBR View’s Simon Dallow this morning, off the back of the worst Colmar Brunton poll result for the party since 2005.

The poll revealed National’s support had fallen to 39%, with Ms Ardern ahead of Mr English as preferred prime minister at 35% and 31% respectively.

Mr English, although still standing by his finance minister’s claim Labour has an $11.7 billion hole in its fiscal plan, again attempted to shift the narrative to how tight Labour’s budgets will be for the next two or three years.

“They are saying they are going to have two or three years where they put a lot [of money] into health and education and none into anything else.

“I have done zero budgets – there is no way they will do that.”

He says even Labour’s finance spokesman Grant Robertson admitted spending will be tight for the party if it wins the Treasury benches.

On Monday Mr Robertson admitted as much, saying if it were elected Labour would be “looking for departments to reassess their spending.”

Outside of saying he does not intend to build more prisons, he would not elaborate on which departments he was referring to.

Mr English says when it comes to the fiscal argument between Mr Joyce and Mr Robertson, public perception is on National's side.

“The public know Labour’s record. When Labour left power last time, interest rates were 10% off the back of big spending and [it is] expected that’s what would happen all over again.”

Mr English was also on the attack when it came to Labour’s tax plans.

He says voters are beginning to realise a vote for Labour is a vote for “a whole lot of new taxes.”

He slammed Labour’s plans to establish a tax working group that will decide which taxes the party would adopt if it’s elected.

“But people aren’t silly – they know that means a blank cheque and they also know the policies will slow the economy.”

On vision
Ms Ardern has emphasised her and her party’s “vision” for the country and many have criticised Mr English for his lack of vision.

A notable example is Mainfreight chief executive Don Braid, who just this week criticised the government on this issue.

“With all due respect, we're sort of being run by a couple of accountants, rather than visionaries, and I think the country needs some visionaries,” he told the NZ Herald.

Asked about Mr Braid’s comments, Mr English doubled down on what NBR political editor Rob Hosking called the “show, don’t tell” effect.

“Look around,” Mr English said, “don’t you wish you had shares in the orange cone company?

“There isn’t a single large project that has been proposed that is not under way or under discussion or contract.”

He says Labour can talk “all they like about their values but they’re not able to show how they translate that into practical support, compassion and care – they just can’t demonstrate it.”

Mr Braid also said "I think they've [the government] stopped listening to us. And I think they think they know better than us. And that's a problem I think for a government that's been around for a long time.”

Mr English, again, disagreed, saying he hadn’t spoken to many people in the business community who agreed with the Mainfreight boss’ comments.

“We have worked extensively at a detailed level with business over the past four or five years through the business growth agenda.”

He says a few years ago one of the “biggest beefs” for business was infrastructure.

“Now, they are finding themselves in the middle of the biggest constructions boom New Zealand has ever seen; landmark infrastructure like the Waterview tunnel, big commitments for the future, $27 billion public transport and roading programmes across Auckland for the next 10 years.”

Mr English cited the previously announced policy where small businesses from April next year will be able to opt out of the provisional tax system and instead pay or be refunded tax on a monthly basis, as visionary.

"The detail may not matter to Mainfreight, but man it matters to the corner florist."

NBR View’s Simon Dallow will interview Ms Ardern on September 20.

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