New PM Bill English talks up infrastructure, housing and ensuring benefits of growth widely shared in first news conference after being elected National leader; sworn in as PM with Paula Bennett deputy

New PM Bill English talks up infrastructure, housing and ensuring benefits of growth widely shared in first news conference after being elected National leader; sworn in as PM with Paula Bennett deputy
New National Party Leader Bill English and Deputy Leader Paula Bennett on the steps of Parliament shortly after they were voted in unopposed by the National Party caucus on December 12. Photo by Lynn Grieveson for Hive News.

By Bernard Hickey

Incoming Prime Minister Bill English used his first news conference as National leader to talk up the prospects for extra infrastructure spending, house building and the need to share the benefits of economic growth widely, rather than talk about the need for big tax cuts that would benefit the wealthy most.

English made the comments after he was elected unopposed by the National Caucus of 59 MPs. Fellow leadership contenders Judith Collins and Jonathan Coleman withdrew last week. The same meeting elected Paula Bennett unopposed as Deputy Leader after Simon Bridges withdrew on Saturday. English was later sworn in as Prime Minister on Monday afternoon at Government House in Wellington.

"In the coming months and years we will focus on building the roads, public transport, schools and houses needed to support a strong economy and the growing population," English said.

"We will also focus on better incomes for our households, safer communities and smarter government support for the most vulnerable," he said.

"This will be a government supporting economic growth and ensuring that the benefits of growth are widely shared."

English said he would build on previous Prime Minister John Key's record of making New Zealand distinctive as "open to trade, open to investment and immigration."

No NZ Super pledge

Also, English repeated comments made last week that he would not copy John Key's commitment to resign if there were any changes to the New Zealand Superannuation settings.

"I am not making the same pledge as the previous Prime Minister did. That was a product of its time. There was a need to establish trust and I think it was a sound decision then, because the election was followed by a recession which could have caused real insecurity for older people," he said.

"I think now we have built credibility as a government that we will support those who rely on the government for income, we won't put them in a worse position, we will work to get them in a better position, and that will be maintained."

English also said he would continue to take an overview of his 'Social Investment' approach to spending on welfare, whereby the Government spent heavily up-front to help a beneficiary get off a benefit permanently.

"We need to be much more active, much more focused on those who have huge challenges  and government has enormous capacity to do a better job and I want to make sure that happens," he said.

Asked if the Government would have a policy re-think over housing and the Government building more housing itself, he said: "We will be doing stock take, but the government is  already pretty heavily involved and you will be seeing more rolling out over the next 12 months."

Asked if an English-led Government would focus more on the less fortunate than a Key Government, English pointed to the Government's record of increasing benefits for the first time in real terms since the early 1970s as a sign.

"So I think a few pegs have been laid down and we are signalling that we will be continuing down that road," he said.

Elsewhere, English was asked about how his Catholic faith would shape his role as Prime Minister on issues such as abortion and euthanasia, which he said he continued to oppose. However, he said he would probably vote differently now on gay marriage. He voted against the Gay Marriage amendment Act in 2013.

"I don't think that gay marriage is a threat to anyone else's marriage," he said.

Reaction

Opposition Leader Andrew Little congratulated English on his appointment, but said he was sceptical English represented real change, given he had been beside John Key for 8 years.

"When will young New Zealanders presently shut out of owning their own home get a chance to fulfil their dream?," Little said.

"Is the change in leadership really going to make this Government understand that thousands of New Zealanders don’t have a roof over their heads, or can’t get the hospital care they need, and that parents worry that their kids are not getting the education they deserve," he said.

(Updated with more detail, reaction, English and Bennett being sworn in)

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

53 Comments

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

As they previously worked hand in glove, the puppet show will continue.

No Housey, Housey, no action, nothing but talk. In fact quite idle chatter. Repeat after me...no sweat, no trouble, vote for me and I will not change the status quo.

Not what we need, just what they can deliver. Slow as, steady as she goes....no waves, this time.

They have been in Parliament for ages and the older I get, the slower they get.

Could not build a Nation, could not do anything, but own plenty of rentals themselves.

As well as own a Mcmansion.. ...as benefits their status.

It boosts the price, so why build more. It even gets a Benefit from us mugs. 2 billion and counting, will add up to a tidy sum...for some.

Including most MPs. That is why the rort will continue....will it not.

Go figure, where the cradle to the grave benefit system will be matched, both ends against the middle.

No matter which way you add up the score, we can count on the Bill. Plus GST ...of course.

Perhaps, perhaps not. Not exactly the same pathway but there is a bit of similarity here to the journey of John Howard in Australia. He too got badly beaten in his first try at PM and lost the leadership to his party, I think. Give English a chance he looks already to be providing more substance and once he has settled in, some of the policies that are implemented, should be more about us, and what is best for us before anything else. English is astute enough to gather National could not continue on like they have. Probably Key knew as well.

Offcut - If you are quoting from Banshee you will remember the new boss surprised on the upside!

Be quoting the Who, I am picking, "Won't Get Fooled Again"

If you had the misfortune to miss it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgubG-MOPT4

21
up

"No changes to immigration policy" = no change to my decision to vote for NZ First.

Migration stats are thru

status quo,that is what the caucus majority voted for,we get to vote next year and if he doesnt go on an overseas trip he might still be there.

BH, you may want to change the following sentence: "Key said he would build on previous Prime Minister John Key's..." old habits die hard

Thanks. Fixed now.

cheers

Bernard

Good 1st speech Mr Prime Minister, let's see what you will implement in the next 6 months...

The new PM has been around for quite a while. This government copped the 2008 crash K the 2010 EQ's. Like his predecessor Cullen, English has been fiscally prudent. That has paid off hugely. Both of them deserve every NZr's gratitude. Key leaned towards big business, corporate style, the balance sheet rules. English probably knows more about balance sheets than Key but believe he is not similarly confined to those disciplines. Like Cullen he is now in a period of surpluses, he can be expected to manage these just as well, probably in fact a lot better. Cullen was forced to concede to pet projects of his leader and others, plus things like the dreadful student loan vote catcher. English has the setting, experience and potential to do very well for all of us.

Yes, I like Bill English, he has done a good job. Pity National have been unable to tackle housing, immigration (well population growth mainly, what use is it?), or the current acount deficit which forces us to keep selling the country to pay for our imports and excessive consumption "lifestyle".

What? I haven't noticed English putting up a fight against all that stuff

16
up

Cullen had real surpluses, English has 2 fudged surpluses. A real surplus is Health,Education,Police etc adequately funded,Super Fund funded, Govt debt being paid off and Net debt reducing.
A fudged surplus is Health,Education,Police etc underfunded,Super Fund not funded,Govt debt not being paid down (only interest) and Net debt increasing. There is a big difference.

Absolutely

HC and MC had surpluses from keeping the economy booming via the housing bubble. National did not so had to borrow to keep spending in a recession, the worst since the Great Depression (and it isnt over yet either).

So yes there is a big difference, National's metal for all their faults and myopic short term outlook has been tested, Labour not so.

Wild Bill English & Paula Hot-Hips Bennett ...

... vs ...

Mad Little Andy & Annette Ma King ...

... it's not looking a whole lot better for you , is it , Little Andy ... the voting public aren't gonna be abandoning the Gnats holus-bolus just because the Jolly Kid bailed on them ... Sorry !

Maybe we should be looking at policy instead of personality?

When a leader has 6 children? that is in effect policy.

you think he is careless, lacks discipline? could have been a glass or two of wine.

Key looked positively bubbly today on TV. Seems like a weight lifted off his shoulders and he is enjoying the lightness of it all. Good man, knows what he wants.

It a knight of the Hood, he wants more than anything..That is why he reinstated the honour system for those who lie in State.

Maybe they could see to it that any "surplus" is directed back from whence it came, you know, like health, housing, police, infrastructure etc. And maybe Bennett might be able to spare the ladder she pulled up as soon as she had her hands on the MSD portfolio.

not expecting any significant policy shifts.

It worries me that our new prime minister is Catholic and pro immigration growth. Not a good combination.
As it is the Catholic church are in Disney Land where they believe they can just keep making babies and the big fella will provide. They don't seem to realize that the planet has finite resources and humans are already using more than their share.

What a completely bigoted statement - where are the moderators allowing this poison on this site???

If think it isn't bigoted, replace Catholic with any other religious or ethnic group then see what you think.

The Catholic church says that birth control is a sin. So not bigoted at all.

Artificial birth control is prohibited - that's not the same as unlimited children. A stereotype + misinformation = prejudice.

Artificial birth control prohibition leads to a lack of family planning, so I don't think the comment is bigoted or prejudice. We should feel free to speak up against this stuff without being called bigoted.

What would be the average number of children in a Catholic family AK79?
Do you think continued population growth is sustainable?
Do you think humanity has a responsibility to each other to leave the environment in better condition for the next generation?
Do you think humanity has a responsibility towards the other lifeforms we share the planet with?
I apologize for offending you, But my posts on this website generally fit the theme that it offends me that our politicians and many of our citizens think its all right to artificially raise NZ's population.
I adhere to the philosophy that less people on the planet would be good for all.

If we are still around in 20 years time, we'll be saying, thank goodness those Catholics bred so prolifically now we have passed peak population growth and the developed world demographics are in freefall !

Fertility rates in Catholic Italy are among the lowest in the west at about 1.2. It's a social, not religious issue.

Your comment is not bigoted, just mis targeted. Muslim and African fertility rates are the emerging contributors to current population growth, as the Asian subcontinent improves the outcomes that previously drove unsustainable population growth there.

English's religion is a non issue in this staunchly secular country.

No as we need energy to feed people and specifically fossil energy. In 20 years time we will have significantly less oil and hence the ability to feed 20million as we do now. In fact we might even struggle to feed 5million.

Agree, but I dont think we will be up to feeding half a million in 20 years time.
Less (or Running out) of Oil isn't the problem - non viable Oil is the problem which is hitting now. (ie In the same way you cant send a fishing boat out for 1000kms to catch one fish, you cant produce Oil which doesn't provide a net return for the whole system)
Despite appearances of a glut, the Oil companies are running on fumes

I am not offended - just disappointment that the same black legends, half-truths, and downright lies get spread about the Catholic Church over and over again. Also, why is it an issue the Prime Minister's religion? No right thinking person made any comments about the previous PM's religion or lack thereof. We have to go back to the last Catholic PM before the media and narrow-minded individuals made any comment.

There is still an "othering" when it comes to Catholics in this country no matter how integrated Catholics are - Catholic become PM and there is still suspicion. It is clearly the last accepted prejudice in polite society. And your lack of subtly in showing prejudice shows this is the case.

The PM states that he will continue the same immigration policy - the same as the last PM - yet I doubt you jumped on that the last PM was a Jew? Anything to do with immigration and/or population you decided that his Catholicism is the issue. After all the policy is in regards to immigration and not increase children i.e. no increase in the world's population just a shift.

You can have your philosophy and advocate for as much as you want - but it is clear that you don't want the PM has his worldview, only yours is acceptable. That for me is unacceptable.

Black legends, half truths and downright lies?
Settle down, Northland Hippy just said that the Catholic Church looks at birth control as a sin, which you concurred with.
Where is this rant coming from?
You could say that putting English's Catholicism and population growth together is drawing a long bow. But the rest of your rant is misdirected.

If you are looking for legends and half truths, maybe you should look to the catholic church.

And of course the prime minister's religion is an issue. I can't be sure what his motivations were to vote against the marriage equality bill, or what motivates his views against abortion or euthanasia. But if it relates to his religion, then of course his religion is extremely important.
The only time it is not important is when our politicians make choices for the country that have nothing to do with their religion.

So, on that basis we should also question the objectivity of politicians who subscribe to an atheistic belief system when it comes to making calls on moral issues.

Atheist - noun: a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.
Please explain atheistic belief system...

Atheism is not a belief system, it may involve a measure of belief but it is no system, and understanding right and wrong is not the exclusive preserve of the religious.

Semantics. My point is that objectivity is not the exclusive preserve of the non religious. An independent position on moral issues can be formed by a religious person.

It's not semantics. Religion informs the morality of the religious. Atheists do not submit to any system and can therefore base their morality independently of any religion.

Morality's based on empathy. That's why it has sod-all correlation with religion.

Can I rephrase then that religion informs the views on social issues of religious people.

I challenge that 'othering' of Catholics is anything more than a tiny minority view in contemporary NZ society. In my experience religious belief is almost irrelevant these days. Sure, catholics get their share of good natured piss taking about the faith but that is rarely anything other than a sign of affection for the left footer concerned.

I don't think it's good natured piss taking in a lot of cases - often it is accusatory and angry. I don't want to get into a debate about the merits of faith or otherwise. But let's face it a lot of bigoted nonsense gets spread about the Catholic Church and Catholics in general.

Aren't we well past that notion?

It is actually correct, whatever other religions and ethnic minorities also think.

drain the swamp in NZ. Introduce 2 term limits for MPs. English has had his run. We need new thinking

We need new thinking from the people to get new thinking in government.

yep..and here it is https://youtu.be/mmfVhs2cDuQ

good presentation by Gareth Morgan in that link Rastus. New thinking and good thinking alright.