Government bureaucracy hinders business competitiveness, says Luxon

National leader Christopher Luxon defends his comment about companies being soft and blames the government.

Christopher Luxon
photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Luxon had just returned from a 10-day overseas mission seeking policy ideas from Singapore, Ireland and London.

Speaking to the right-wing Policy Exchange think tank in London last week, Luxon said New Zealand needed more consistent microeconomic reform to “unleash entrepreneurship”.

The public was already looking to the government for all the answers, but now companies have “softened up” and relied on government support as well.

When asked why he criticizes companies abroad, Luxon said Morning report that there is some great entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation among companies, but the government has not empowered them.

“We have a government that is blatantly adding compliance costs, red tape, not supporting small and medium-sized businesses at all and making their jobs extremely difficult.”

The country needed a much more business friendly environment to grow, but the government kept changing the rules and people didn’t invest.

Asked again why he said companies were getting soft, he said there had to be more companies like Fonterra and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare that were global.

Luxon recalled that New Zealand topped the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index and said the country’s competitiveness and economic management had recently fallen in other tables.

It had become “really difficult” to do business in Aotearoa over the past four years, resulting in a lack of investment, he said.

He was impressed by Ireland, which was based on tourism and agriculture, but also encouraged its companies to go global and export.

“That [in New Zealand] it’s a government that doesn’t openly support business, it’s a government that doesn’t have a lot of people running businesses.”

Companies needed an environment in which they could transform their commercial opportunities and grow and become more successful around the world.

NT ‘frightened, self-centered’

As for his belief that the rest of the world has moved on from Covid-19, he said none of his talks in the UK, Ireland and Singapore were about the pandemic.

“Staying very scared, very inward, very negative looking, like I said, we’ve been in New Zealand the last four years when we have to be a lot more ambitious, ambitious and positive and out there in the world. We have to balance those things.”

While the government handled the pandemic well in 2020, it was “tough” in 2021 and this year, citing vaccine rollout, slow availability of rapid antigen tests, MIQs and the traffic light system.

Luxon said that given the current health crisis in the country, everyone should get a booster shot if they want one, and health workers should be able to get tested before their shift (allowing unvaccinated nurses and doctors to return).

In the health sector, 30,000 operations were canceled and 57,000 people waited more than four months to see a specialist.

There were 500 unvaccinated nurses and 50 unvaccinated doctors and it would be a “pragmatic response” to allow them to work again, Luxon said.

Elvira Parkinson

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