Election 2020: Jacinda Ardern wades in on Judith Collins’ obesity comments

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has waded in after National Party leader Judith Collins’ comments that obesity was a “weakness” and a matter of personal responsibility, saying it appears to be a change in direction on National’s previous stance on the issue.

Ardern has also now ruled out introducing a “wealth tax” as long as she is Prime Minister.

Speaking to media after a walkabout on her final campaign visit to Christchurch, Ardern challenged

Collins’ comments that people should take personal responsibility for obesity rather than blame the system.

“I disagree with her position, this is a change for the National Party. Under the leadership of John Key and Bill English, they did take a science and evidence base to this issue. It is another area you can see this is not the same National Party it once was.”

National Party MP Mark Mitchell also said on Newstalk ZB this morning that obesity was more complex than personal responsibility – and Ardern said “that is more in keeping with the view once held by Key and English. It shows Judith Collins has taken National in a different direction and perhaps not all her team agree with her.”

Earlier, National Party deputy leader and MP for Ilam Gerry Brownlee said no one but himself can take responsibility for his own large size.

But Mitchell broke ranks with his party leaders on the issue.

“Some obesity can be dealt with through exercise and diet, there’s no doubt about that,” he told Newstalk ZB. “But some obesity is related to medical conditions, even psychological conditions that need treating, so it’s a more complex issue.”

Wealth tax

Ardern also ruled out introducing a wealth tax as long as she was Prime Minister – going further than her previous comments that she would not consider it in the next term.

She would not go quite as far as her MP Stuart Nash’s pledge that he would resign if a wealth tax came in.

“[The wealth tax] is not in play, so there’s no need for a hypothetical. I won’t allow it to happen as Prime Minister.

“Now is not the time to be experimenting with tax policy when we need to focus on our economic recovery.”

Asked if she would take any proposed future tax changes to the 2023 campaign before implementing them, Ardern said that was what was usually done.

“That has tended to be what we have done as the Labour Party. People are very familiar with our policy, that is what we will implement. We are not implementing any other party’s tax policy.”

She said Nash’s comment was a reflection of the “desperation and misinformation” from the Natonal Party on the matter, after Judith Collins again said at a public meeting that she did not believe Labour would not implement some form of wealth tax.

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