Chris Hipkins’ first big meetings as prime minister are a series of charm offensives with Auckland businesses, as he seeks to understand what their priorities and issues are.
“I’ll be there to ask questions of them and to listen to them, in order to accelerate the important relationship that’s needed between business and government, in order to benefit all New Zealanders and to continue to grow our economy.”
Auckland Business Chamber CEO – and former National party leader – Simon Bridges welcomed the news businesses were first cab off the rank for the new prime minister.
“That in itself gives business some confidence. It’s a sense that this is where his priorities lie.
“I think he’s off to a good start, inasmuch as what he’s saying is he’s going to come back to the bread and butter issues.”
Bridges said those issues for Auckland businesses were around plans to curb inflation, getting more workers into the country, and concerns around law and order.
“I think it’s incredibly refreshing to see from a new PM that he gets it, that he gets it’s businesses that make an economy and actually allow governments to do the things that we all want them to do like fund better health, education, and law and order.”
“Inflation … isn’t just an issue for households, it’s a real issue for SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises]” – Simon Bridges duration4′ :50″
“Inflation … isn’t just an issue for households, it’s a real issue for SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises]” – Simon Bridges
Asked whether businesses wanted a pause in minimum wage increases Bridges said: “Overall the view would be we all get that those at the bottom being paid the least have deserved being paid more but that the rate and the size of the change has been a huge amount for businesses to swallow”.
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During his first post-cabinet press conference on Wednesday, Hipkins brushed off criticism his first meetings were with business leaders, and not Labour’s traditional supporters like unions.
“I’ll continue to meet with a large cross-section of people over the coming weeks and months.
“Of course, we have to recognise that I’ve put the economy front and centre of my priorities, and that is going to involve working closely with business.”
Green co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw have written to Hipkins outlining what the Greens see as priorities. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver
Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson expected Hipkins would meet with unions and community groups in time.
“Perhaps he feels that’s an area where he particularly feels he’s neglected,” she said of the business meetings.
Davidson and fellow co-leader James Shaw have written to Hipkins, outlining what the Greens see as priorities.
It includes core Green policies, like an increase to Working for Families and income support benefits, the introduction of a rental Warrant of Fitness, and helping families switch to low-cost renewable energy.
Davidson said Labour and the Greens have had a constructive and positive working relationship under their co-operation agreement, but there was still more to do.
“We know that there is a way to be able to give relief to those families and households struggling the most, to provide income support, to rebalance wealth, that will in turn provide some of the solutions that we need.”
Hipkins intends to re-shuffle his cabinet next week, and then take a closer look at what government policies could be scaled back or scrapped as he turns the government’s focus squarely on the cost of living and the economy.
As Davidson and Shaw sit outside cabinet, Davidson expected their work programmes would continue.
“We have to be really clear ourselves as ministers that we need to prioritise our capacity, our focus, and so we do that regardless.
“But the re-prioritisation of government work, our clear understanding is that is a job for cabinet ministers and they’ll be looking at those programmes.”
Hipkins will meet with his ministers on Friday to discuss the reshuffle.