Question Time in Parliament: Christopher Luxon heckled over Hawaii trip; National calls for inquiry into Reserve Bank’s Covid response
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will mark her birthday today by taking questions from National Chief Christopher Luxon, Chief Law Officer David Seymour and co-leader of Te Pāti Māori Deborah Ngarewa-Packers as Parliament kicks off after a break of three weeks. Video / provided
National leader Christopher Luxon was barely on his feet before Labor MPs tried to trip him up during his first Question Time after Parliament’s three-week winter recess.
Called to ask his question by Speaker Trevor Mallard, Luxon was met with interjections from the Labor side of the chamber; “I thought he was at Te Puke,” said one, “Aloha,” said another – both in reference to news that Luxon was vacationing in Hawaii as his social media suggested that he was at Te Puke.
Upon entering the Chamber, Luxon told the media that he thought New Zealanders were more focused on the cost of living than on his trip to Hawaii, and that was the topic he was focusing on, noting that inflation was above the target range of 1-3% for 15 consecutive years. month.
“When should Kiwis struggling with the cost of living expect inflation to be below 3%,” Luxon asked.
Ardern, perhaps hesitant to tie her political forecasts to uncertain economic forecasts, would not give a direct answer to this question.
“These are just forecasts – it’s incredibly difficult at this stage to pinpoint where inflation is going to land,” Ardern said.
The hot topic in Parliament on Tuesday, Luxon’s Hawaiian gaffe aside, was National’s call for an investigation into the Reserve Bank’s monetary policy response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Bank’s decision to digitally print $54 billion and send it into the economy in an effort to keep interest rates low escaped criticism from three former Reserve Bank governors, a former chairman of the bank and a former chief economist.
On Tuesday morning, Luxon called for a public inquiry into the Bank’s response.
Ardern applauded what she called the opposition’s “revisionist story”, noting that by the time the Bank began its response to Covid-19, there were forecasts of double-digit unemployment and d a major collapse in real estate prices.
An unemployment crisis has been averted thanks to the government and Bank response, and house prices are only just starting to crash, having risen considerably thanks to the Bank’s response.
Trying to shut down Luxon’s line of attack, Ardern noted that the Reserve Bank regularly appears before Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee.
“Every decision is subject to careful scrutiny,” Ardern said.
That was all Green Party finance spokeswoman Chlöe Swarbrick needed to get her feet up.
She asked if Ardern supported Swarbrick’s call for a broader review by the Finance and Expenditure Committee – something the Greens, National and Law have supported for five months, but Labor has blocked.
Although he used the finance and expenses committee to deflect questions from Luxon, Ardern was less inclined to use it to respond to Swarbrick, saying Covid’s response had already been well reviewed.
“There have been many inquiries, reviews, analyzes across the Covid-19 response,” Ardern said.