Jacinda Ardern wants more support for small business loans and $300 million in cash incentives to hire the unemployed in place by the end of the year.
And while she is giving little away about a potential governing arrangement with the Greens, she is stressing the “strong mandate” given to Labour and the need to keep voters who may have turned to Labour for the first time.
“I have said that I want to talk with the Greens and will do that next week, but … that mandate does exist for Labour,” the Prime Minister said yesterday.
It follows Labour’s overwhelming win on Saturday, with more than enough for a parliamentary majority.
Ardern said she expected to form the next Government within two to three weeks, and saw the election victory as an endorsement of Labour’s Covid response and recovery plan in particular.
“What was the message, particularly [from] those New Zealanders who may have voted for Labour who haven’t done so before?
“I think they were endorsing the work we’ve done on Covid already, and they were endorsing the plan we have to go forward.”
She said first out of the blocks will be the flexi-wage scheme and changes to the small business cashflow loan scheme.
The former would subsidise businesses an average of $7500, and up to $22,000, if they give unemployed Kiwis a sustainable job; the $311m scheme is estimated to support up to 40,000 jobs.
The latter would extend the loan scheme until the end of 2023, while doubling the interest-free period from one year to two years. Criteria would also be expanded beyond core expenses to include investment in new equipment or digital infrastructure, or to help to adapt to the impacts of Covid-19.
Ardern said Labour’s plans for the loan scheme had not been given the green light in the previous coalition.
“We can just crack on now with getting that rolled out.”
She added that the community case of Covid-19 in the port worker, revealed yesterday, was an example of the border controls working as they should.
“There’s nothing to suggest the need to move any of the restriction levels.”
She said she would push through with everything in Labour’s election manifesto, but there was also licence to go beyond it in some circumstances.
“There will always be issues that will come up over the course of a term in office.”
Former PM Helen Clark and former Finance Minister Sir Michael Cullen encouraged Ardern to hug the centre.
“The reality is that elections in New Zealand are won in the centre,” Clark said.
“I think she’ll want to continue to govern in a way that’s inclusive of quite a broad spectrum, and with respect to where the economy can go from here, [she] definitely would want to include the voices of those in the business community about how to rebuild.”
Cullen said the election result was a mandate for action on, among other things, climate action and transport infrastructure.
But it was not an invitation to lurch to the left in terms of tax or welfare reform, he said, and any attempt to leap in that direction could risk losing “middle-ground voters”.
Ardern will head to Wellington today and meet with her caucus today and tomorrow.
She seemed to pour cold water on any governing arrangement with the Māori Party, whose candidate Rawiri Waititi won the seat of Waiariki by a narrow margin of 415 votes.
“While I seek to be a consensus builder
I also want straightforward arrangements for this next term of office.”
She said the leaders of Spain, Denmark, the UK and Canada had contacted her to offer their congratulations, but she hadn’t heard from Donald Trump.
“I don’t tend to have those direct communications with the President of the US,” Ardern said.
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