New National leader Simon Bridges is making no apologies for what he calls his ‘firm but fair’ approach to holding the Govt to account – he speaks to Interest.co.nz political reporter Jason Walls

There is a reason Leader of the Opposition is referred to as the “worst job in politics.”

Against the backdrop of the National Party's leadership contest Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was always quick to make that point.

Opposition leaders do have to be mean. After all, it’s their job to challenge what the Government of the day does.

Simon Bridges, the new leader of the National Party, admits he does have concerns that at times he might come across too negatively – as the bad guy.

But he is making no apologies for that.

“Sometimes I will be assertive – my approach to that tone would be firm but fair.”

He says how an Opposition leader conducts themselves is a delicate balance between playing nice and playing hardball.

“We need to hold the Government to account, to probe it and question it.

“That makes governments better. By doing these things, we’re pointing out weaknesses we see and that should actually make the whole system work better.”

National will be voting with the Government on passing CPTPP trade legislation and Bridges says there are other opportunities for his Opposition to support “the good stuff” the Government is doing.

“But it can’t all be that – if that’s all we did, we would deserve to stay in Opposition.”

And it’s fair to say he has started his tenure as National’s leader on the offensive – taking aim at the Government’s $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund immediately.

He calls it a “slush fund” and accuses the Government of focusing on regions which are politically important to them.

Last Friday, as part of a $60 million new funding announcement, Minister of Economic Development and NZ First MP Shane Jones dished out $17 million to create jobs, address infrastructure deficits, enhance tourism opportunities and diversify Northland’s economy.

The Northland electorate was held by NZ First Leader Winston Peters until he lost it in the last election and would likely be keen to win it back from National’s Mike King.

“This is money spent for political reasons, rather than because the projects stack up and are going to enable growth in our regions,” Bridges says.

Some time to think

Bridges has made abundantly clear that the National Party he leads will have a strong focus on the environment.

In his press conference earlier this week, he was waving his “blue-green” flag for all to see.

“We in the National Party pride ourselves as being a broad-based party that reflects the views of our nation. We want to reflect what New Zealanders believe and I think that’s environmentalism.”

He says the previous National Government didn’t get enough credit for its work on ensuring environmental sustainability, citing its work on biodiversity and fresh water rights.

“Is there room for us in Opposition to be thinking about that even more – to be emphasising a few things, [with] the luxury of the time we have in Opposition?” he asks.

“Yes, there is.”

Bridges’ commitment to environmental policies has many people wondering if it’s an early bid to start wooing the Greens into a Coalition agreement in 2020.

He won’t rule this out, saying National is open to doing deals with any other party, outside of Labour, to win back the Treasury benches.

“I can’t predict, I don’t think anyone can, where parties will be – who will be up, who will be down in terms of NZ First, Greens, The Opportunities Party (TOP) or the Maori Party or some other form or iteration,” he says.

“But obviously we will be thinking about that and will be open to considering possibilities.”

He is not willing, however, to pull his punches on the Greens in a bid to win the party over, calling it out for not being a “true environmental party,” as it’s focus was sometimes on other “bits and bobs” such as some of its social policies.

Although not completely ruling out a Coalition in 2020, Green Party co-leader James Shaw is not yet convinced, saying Bridges would have to wait a long time for the Greens to shed its non-environmental issues.

In the video Bridges also talks about his achievements in government, and how "Winston chose the Government."

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31 Comments

An annoying or possibly insufferable one? Unfortunately he's hard to watch like Andrew Little was. Charisma goes a long way, I didn't see it in Key either, so maybe everyone else will see it in Bridges, I'm doubtful though.

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Well, the NZ Association of Used Car Salespeople has expressed their considerable joy at gaining greater profile in Parliament, for one.

All the choices were really bad to be honest. Maybe Joyce but he's been tarnished with his stupid fiscal hole comments and the dildo incident.

It is a bit disconcerting as to how he puffs himself up (as pictured above) when being interviewed, looks a bit gauche if you ask me. But here’s hoping, he or some of his colleagues run a far more effective parliamentary opposition than Labour did for the last nine years. A lot of NZ’s ills have come from National being allowed to get too big-headed. Going back a bit, but a Holyoake, Kirk, Muldoon, Lange & even Clark would never have let the relative governmen in power have a virtual free ride like the last National lot.

Most of ppl sitting in management roles in NZ are (just) really good talkers using very general and positive albeit hollow languages.

They like reactive type of tasks and are keen on solving 'crisis'.

They call themselves leaders but actually do not know the destination because of lack of vision.

Enlighten us, xingmowang, as to your experience of 'most ppl sitting in management roles in NZ'. Where, I wonder, has your experience been gained?

In my global experience, New Zealand business managers are particularly highly rated and deservedly so, coming as they do from a probity-transparent, well educated, free thinking, action oriented, micro-environment. For a small country, New Zealand also has an outstanding record in developing innovative and successful business strategies and enterprises. As a result, there are numerous New Zealanders holding very senior positions in major businesses and other substantial institutions internationally.

Perhaps it's at least partly because we are free to form and follow our own 'visions'.

I don't mean to be rude, but your little blurb is pretty much what he is referring to (I think).

We have some talented people in management, but they're far from being the majority.

No offence taken, AAH27588 By far the majority of NZ managers are in SME's, and are most often also owners. My experience among these is limited. Executive managers tend to work in mid- to large-scale entities. In these (although one can always point to Fonterra and Fletcher Building), I suggest our management calibre is equal to that in the many global companies of which I have close experience. Certainly, with reference to xingmowang's assertions, New Zealand managers are doers before talkers, proactive rather than reactive, leaders before followers, and good at articulating and executing strategy or vision. And, as said, cancel this for the two F's.

Funny how my perception is quite the opposite.

I think it really comes down to what industry sector your working in. From my experience in electronics, the majority of managers are idiots.

I think all NZ managers could benefit from relevant overseas industry experience.
and I don't mean a visit or a cheap qualification, I mean down and dirty.
Those that have the experience return to NZ and find its business environment a walk in the park by comparison.
It looks good on their resume as well.

Be interesting to know what industry you're involved in - because it sounds great - where do I sign up?

My personal experience is that as Kiwi's we tend to talk ourselves up a bit - we used to be the humble lot but seem to have developed a bit of an ego thing of late...(thinking we're better than we actually are)..but that's just my perception on the state of affairs.

You might be moving in different circles, workingman, compared to the majority of Kiwis.

The majority of NZ managers are never going to appear in any type of global setting -- in fact, a lot of them have probably never left the country for anything other than a cheesy Australia, Cook Island (most probably a wedding) or Fiji vacation. Life goals for the average NZ manager includes, in no particular order: 1.) Marriage to female with blonde highlights; 2.) Purchase of late model Holden commodore; 3.) Purchase of new home in trending subdivision; 4.) Purchase of boat in size relative to ego; 5.) Coach children's Rugby - or for more non-degree working class-type manager, such as in South Auckland - Rugby League" and fanatically support the Warriors; 6.) Post pictures on social media that reflect other life accomplishments/milestones that are socially mirrored; such as holidaying, noteworthy x-mas presents, eating out at trending locations, attending fancy dress parties, etc.; and finally, 7.) Posting National Party memes and or regalia on social media, and sharing their "self made" story at any opportunity, often in random comments on news articles.

OK, I got a little carried away there, but you get the point.

We do have some great managers, but they're definitely not the majority -- the really good ones are more likely to be those you've encountered overseas who are in the top 5%, or even 2% or 1%.

AAH27588 - that's outstanding. Don't think that you got carried away at all. Au contraire, I thought you were very restrained!

Clearly you are the same people... how many of you are there. Good grief!

"trending subdivision" may be the most depressing phrase I've heard this year.

He has a point. A friend of mine who I'd regard as a management "high flyer" made a comment a few years back to me. He was dumb-founded when he returned to NZ on the capability of managers in NZ. His conclusion was the reason why NZ managers are regraded so well globally is because most of the good ones have actually left NZ leaving second raters behind.

Yes, Steven, I've met the second-rate too, but more rarely than the competent. I agree that very able New Zealand executives seem most often to be met overseas. I heard the then Minister of Education say at a dinner that 80% - as I remember the percentage - of New Zealand expats are degree-holders. But the issue of opportunity here, for these people, is another issue.

From experience managing a company in the States in my opinion the average NZ executive is far more effective than her or his American counterpart. And a lot of that comes from a superior attitude rather than sheer ability. In other words a good attitude with a lesser ability is a heck of a lot better prospect than great ability with a bad attitude. Speaks for itself really.

American corporates like workflows aye? Those things really reduce the effectiveness of management.

Without pointing fingers perhaps NZ Managers use management by powerpoint slides....but ignore the monthly financial reports.
I have seen aussie line managers spend every Friday afternoon pouring over performance reports...boring eh..better to be in the pub.

Always seemed to me that turnover outweighed margins and cost control. Understandable given the vast, really vast, market available. But boy oh boy was there not plenty of coasting & wastage built in, at all levels.

xingmowang, I want to add that I find your continual (and notably ill-informed) drive to undermine the qualities, behaviours and institutions of New Zealand surprising. I wonder what the agenda is behind it all?

Perhaps it's Jian Yang's username?

Actually for once I agree with him. For 22 year my experience with NZ managers is most are frankly mediocre at best and I am not alone in thinking that.

All Simon Bridges need do is sit tight - and let Winston, Labour and The Greens implode........

TTP

LOL, dream on.

Seems to like his own voice, like the other PM we all suffered for a long time ?
Keylite has a long way to go to garner admirers and supporters, even among Maori, I think.
Having BigB by his side is not going to help him get more admirers/supporters quickly.
As for policies, he may borrow from left, right and center, pun intended.
National may split soon ?

Well I think we should give him the opportunity to prove himself. Afterall who would have picked Helen Clark as leadership material?

Cripes after listening to that spiel I feel Labour has nothing to worry about next election!
Did anyone else feel that the interviewer had more charisma than the interviewee?

You watching the Nation on 3? Bridges is dreadful. Lisa Owen asked him if prisoners should be able to vote and his answer was that people serving less than 3 years (parliamentary term) should be able to vote, past that, no. Did not even know that his own party removed the right of all prisoners to vote a while back. That WAS how it was, wonder how he voted on that? Fudged and obfuscated on just about every other questions and still thinks he can tell the Greens what policies they should have.
He is very, very hard to listen to, that voice of his is going to under a lot of skins.