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Grant Robertson admits there's 'more to do' in Government's economic response to pandemic

Finance Minister Grant Robertson is defending the Government's economic response to Covid-19, but acknowledges there's still more work to be done. 

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Grant Robertson highlighted the Government's work during the past three years but acknowledged there was more work to be done. Source: Breakfast

His comments today on TVNZ1's Breakfast come after his National counterpart Paul Goldsmith said more investment was needed in the private sector to create sustainable jobs during the pandemic.

In the first round of data from TVNZ's Vote Compass online tool it was revealed that those who have participated so far rank economy as the most important issue in the upcoming election.

It showed 29 per cent of participants picked the economy as their number one focus.

The result was well ahead of the Government's response to the Covid-19 crisis, which 17 per cent said was their number one focus.

The two are clearly interlinked - New Zealand's response to Covid-19 is about health, but also jobs, economic stimulus, opportunity, debt and the economy.

Finance spokesmen for the two major political parties - National and Labour - discussed the issues in separate interviews on TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

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The National finance spokesperson said the creation of new jobs is needed to support the economy during the pandemic. Source: Breakfast

National's Mr Goldsmith said the big difference between his party and Labour was that under National they wouldn't borrow money to buy jobs.

"The critical part of the story is it's private sector investment that creates sustainable jobs," he said.

"It's people going out and saying 'okay, I've got my business', there's tens of thousands of business owners in the country and we want them to be saying 'look I want to expand, I want to take on that extra person, I want to take a risk and start an entrepreneurship'."

Mr Goldsmith said 10,000 jobs a month were being created in the last two years of the previous National Government.

"It wasn't because the Government was doing stuff, it was the private sector investing and growing and that is the only path out of this sustainably," he said.

"The worry that I have is the Government seems to just be carrying on as if nothing's changed, they keep on adding more regulatory costs, they're talking about higher debts, the Greens think that tax is love and they want more of it ... and they've made it more difficult for investment to come from offshore and so that all makes it more difficult for the private sector to grow and invest." 

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TVNZ’s election survey tool has queried more than 82,000 New Zealanders. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Goldsmith said a lot of families were struggling with job loss already due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with more to come over the coming months "because the economy has been devastated by this Covid lockdown and restrictions".

He said the predictions for New Zealand's economy were much worse than in Australia.

However, Mr Robertson defended the Government's response to the pandemic.

He acknowledged that the "economic shock" due to the pandemic had been tough on Kiwis.

"This is tough for many people and I don't shy away from that at all. I know in some of those households if people have lost their jobs then they've gone on to that Covid income relief payment and they are getting support.

"We are actively using the power of Government to support people into work ... at a time like this, this is where Government does step up.

"All the way through the time we've been in Government we've been taking steps to reduce inequality, the very first thing we did was reverse the previous Government's tax cuts which you and I would have got the benefit of and made sure that those went to low and middle income families," he told Breakfast host John Campbell.

"On the child poverty indicators that we now have to measure ourselves against because we passed a law to make sure that we do, seven of nine of those have improved.

"Is there more to do? Of course there's more to do and that's what we want to keep doing in another term."

Mr Robertson said "more to do" was about investing to move people "above and beyond where they are now", including investment in up-skilling people with free apprenticeships and subsidised trade training, as well as building more public housing.

"All of those things are massive factors in if people, children, get a decent start in life, families have enough income."

However, Mr Robertson also said a tax policy would be out "very, very soon".

"We know that all New Zealanders need to pay their fair share, that we do need to be in a situation where we look to the future of the kinds of public services we need, the kinds of debt reduction plan we'll need in the future. We're all going to have to bare some of that but our announcements on that will come very soon."