Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Housing Minister Phil Twyford went too far when he called Treasury officials “kids” who are “completely disconnected from reality.”
Speaking at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference on Monday, Ardern said she “disagreed with the characterisation” Twyford gave to officials when he disagreed with their forecasts.
“I have made that clear to Minister Twyford.”
Just hours after the Budget was released on Thursday, Twyford threw Treasury under the bus, telling Interest.co.nz its analysis on KiwiBuild’s impact on residential construction was “simply wrong.”
He instead pointed to a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) paper which showed much more money would be spent on residential property.
The following day, his rhetoric on the issue was much more pointed.
In a media stand up, he slammed the “kids at Treasury” over its analysis, saying the “bean counters” had it all wrong.
“Some of these kids at Treasury are fresh out of University and they’re completely disconnected from reality.”
His comments were in stark contrast to Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s praise of Treasury and its officials on Friday morning.
“Treasury has a pretty good record with forecasting when you look at it over the years,” he told Interest.co.nz in an interview.
In the Budget lock-up, he praised Treasury for its work in putting the Budget together over the last few months.
Ardern says she would join Robertson in his admiration of the officials, but adds that it’s not uncommon for Ministers to disagree with Treasury.
In 2016, then Prime Minister John Key called Treasury’s long-term debt forecasts “a load of nonsense.”
National’s Gerry Brownlee has also had run-ins, calling a report critical of the post-Canterbury Earthquake recovery effort “the usual sort of rubbish from them.”
Despite saying Twyford had gone too far, Ardern says she also disagrees with Treasury’s KiwiBuild forecasts.
“One of the things that Treasury hasn’t taken into account is some of the elements of KiwiBuild which include buying off plans.
“So, there are some different mechanisms they have used to make those forecasts.”