New National leader Christopher Luxon says he’s a “big fan” of increasing the minimum wage, as long as the economy is growing.
The first-term MP, nearing one week into his new position, spoke to Q+A on Sunday morning about a wide range of issues, including his thoughts about the economy and particularly his focus on growing productivity.
“I’m a big fan of increasing minimum wages, but when you do it when your economy is growing around 3 to 4 per cent mark so you can sustain in,” Luxon said.
It comes after he said in April that the increase in the minimum wage — from $18.90 to $20 — was hurting small businesses.
“All that cost gets shunted across to small business to pay for. As a result, it’s a big disincentive for them to invest back in their business and actually create new jobs.”
Luxon acknowledged New Zealand’s economy had fared well in a broad sense — unemployment is low and the country was faring better amid the pandemic than other countries.
But, he added, that didn’t paint the full picture of the issues small businesses were facing on the ground.
He said he had spoken to one business in Auckland who said they were struggling to get skilled workers and were worried about port delays.
‘I get that. It’s not sustainable.’
Since taking on National’s leadership, Luxon had made the headlines for owning seven properties.
He had attracted some criticism for emphasising the importance of productivity growth while making the choice to invest in houses.
“I’ve noted the criticism over the past week,” Luxon said.
He said property was only a part of his investment portfolio, and that he had other types of assets too.
Luxon acknowledged investing in property had been incentivised in New Zealand.
“That’s the issue — we’ve got massive double-digit growth in housing and it’s actually doing a number of things.
“It’s causing unaffordability issues big-time. It’s actually incentivising people to not actually put it into a broader set of asset classes.
“I get that. It’s not sustainable,” he said.
It was also important to remember that a majority of landlords were providing good quality housing, he added.
When asked how many houses someone could own before it was morally unjust, Luxon said he didn’t want to get into talking about it.
Instead, New Zealand needed to think about how it could fix the fundamental issue of expensive housing, he said.