New Zealander Chris Hipkins pledges to focus on inflation ‘epidemic’ and ‘fairer’ tax system

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New Zealand’s next prime minister, Chris Hipkins, has pledged to curb government reforms to focus on the “global inflation epidemic”.

Speaking to the media on Monday morning, the future prime minister promised that the government would “rule the monarch” over the work program and cut reforms that were not necessary to focus on the economy. In the final months of 2022, Jacinda Ardern made similar commitments, tacitly acknowledging that the government’s busy legislative agenda may have been distracted from the rising cost of living, a key issue that worries voters.

Related: Chris Hipkins profile: Who is New Zealand’s next prime minister after Jacinda Ardern?

“The public thinks we’re doing it too much, too fast,” he said in a series of early morning radio interviews. “We need to focus on some of the bread and butter issues that New Zealanders are definitely focusing on right now, including the cost of living, the effects of the ongoing global inflation epidemic we are currently experiencing. moment,” he told RNZ.

“We have to make sure we spend our resources on the things that will make the biggest difference and that matter most.”

New Zealand’s inflation rate remains high, with food prices rising 11.3% year-on-year in December – the largest increase in more than three decades.

Hipkins has yet to say which policies will face the bonfire – those priorities will likely be set on Wednesday, when the newly sworn prime minister will meet with the cabinet for the first time.

However, among those likely to face the guillotine is New Zealand’s effort to unite its publicly funded media outlets into a single BBC-style giant. There is also speculation about the future of Three Waters: a large-scale reform of the aging water infrastructure that has turned into a controversial proxy debate with Māori over joint management of public assets and Indigenous sovereignty in New Zealand. Three Waters will likely continue because its scrapping will result in increased rates of thousands of dollars, Hipkins said on Monday.

“We should always look at how we can make the tax system more equitable,” the incoming leader said, also pointing to the possibility of changes to New Zealand’s tax system.

“Overall, I think maybe there are some New Zealanders who haven’t contributed their fair share,” he told the hosts of The AM Show. Earlier in Ardern’s tenure, he had rejected a capital gains tax, a land tax on family homes, or a wealth tax. Critics on the left said these decisions, along with strict fiscal responsibility measures, put the government in a difficult position when it came to carrying out large-scale social reforms, such as mass building of state housing.

Hipkins said his government will meet Labor’s tax commitments for this term – it’s not a new tax other than the new 39% tax rate, but the tax system needs some change, he said.

“There are people who are working really, really hard right now, some of them may be multi-tasking… They make a huge contribution to New Zealand and our well-being, but they feel they can’t move forward. We need a tax system that recognizes this, makes those who really strive, those who have faced difficult conditions, really feel the rewards of it,” he said.

Hipkins was formally elected by the Labor Party’s party board this weekend to replace Ardern after the shocking resignation of the prime minister last week. He will be sworn in on Wednesday.

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