Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on US election and her priorities in first major speech since re-election

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she “has faith in institutions in the United States” when asked about Donald Trump’s claims of electoral fraud.

On whether she preferred Joe Biden to Trump, Ardern said:

“My job in this role as Prime Minister is to work with whoever is leader.”

Ardern said this country had enjoyed a previous relationship with Biden, who had visited New Zealand before.

“Others’ democracies should be left to run their course. That means every vote being counted, for people to have their say…that’s still underway in the United States,” she said.

Ardern, in her first major speech since being re-elected, has promised rapid approval of extensions to the small business loan scheme and the flexi-wage programme before Christmas.

She is also keen to lead trade missions to the United States, China, Britain and Europe as soon as Covid-19 border restrictions are lifted she said today in her first major speech since the election, to a business audience in Auckland.

She said Parliament would pass the extensions to the small business loan scheme and Cabinet would approve the flexi-wage scheme in order to encourage job creation over the Christmas New Year period.

Cabinet would also in the coming weeks approve more infrastructure projects to go through the RMA fast-track process.

Unemployment rates released yesterday reached 5.3 per cent – representing another 37,000 people unemployed in the September quarter (a total of 151,000), the largest quarterly increase since the series began in 1986.

Ardern said they were better than others, however, and the flexi-wage scheme could provide work for up to 40,000 people.

“Yesterday’s better-than-expected unemployment numbers highlighted the relative strength of the New Zealand’s economy, with fewer people unemployed here than in Australia, the US and Canada,” she said.

“However, we cannot rest on our laurels and we want to see more New Zealanders obtain work, which is why we are prioritising the roll out of the flexi-wage scheme prior to Christmas.

“We will invest an additional $311 million into the programme to increase the average subsidy paid to employers to take on a worker and enable an additional 40,000 unemployed people to take advantage of the programme.”

“Māori, Pasifika and women have been disproportionately impacted by job losses to date. My hope is the expanded flexi-wage scheme will play an important role in helping people from these groups to get quickly back into work.

“While the scheme will take some time to fully get up and running, we want to be in a position to assist business to take on workers over the Christmas/New Year period if they can, rather than waiting until after the holiday period.”

The Government had two overarching objectives: to accelerate the economic recovery and to keep New Zealanders safe from Covid, and its priorities reflected those objectives.

“Before Christmas we will extend the Small Business Loan Scheme out to three years and extend the interest-free period to two years.

“We will also extend the purpose of the scheme and allow business to borrow to invest in new equipment and digital infrastructure.

“Making these changes before Christmas provides small business with certainty, especially when the holiday period can be a quieter time for some businesses who may need to access the scheme.”

Ardern said New Zealand exports had stood up remarkably well this year despite the global slow down.

“Our commitment to international trade and our trusted brand of clean, green and safe means our products are in high demand.

“When our border settings change I plan to lend my support to extending our trade efforts by leading a business delegation to key trading partners, including the US, China and the UK and EU, who we are currently in free trade talks with.”

She had asked Foreign Affairs for advice on leading trade missions.

She said the first infrastructure project to go through the new RMA fast-track process had been approved -the Northland water storage project which was estimated to create 60 full-time equivalent jobs and increase GDP in the area by $9m a year.

“Cabinet will look at further projects to go into the fast-track process before the end of the year.”

She said that a bill extending sick leave from five days to 10 days would be introduced before Christmas but it would go through a full select committee process.

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