Economic Development Minister David Parker based his criticism of the ANZ Bank's business confidence survey on comments attributed to the bank's former chief economist Cameron Bagrie, who now runs his own consultancy.
The Opposition has used falling business confidence as a criticism that the Labour-led government is creating too much uncertainty about investments and employment and at the Economic Development, Science and Innovation select committee on Thursday afternoon, economic development minister David Parker let his frustration be known, saying the survey results were "junk. They're junk".
He also cited comments from the bank's former economist Bagrie, that "I think those surveys are very poor barometers" and "you should throw them away".
The comments were reported to Parker in an email from a Labour press secretary who attended the Xero function. The ANZ survey has shown headline business confidence began falling ahead of the election last year and turned negative in October 2017, then the lowest reading since September 2015. According to the last survey, from May, a net 27 percent of businesses are pessimistic about the year ahead, down 4 points from April.
ANZ has defended the robustness of its survey, saying it is confident the survey reflects views in the business community well, though businesses views are only one component of the many aspects that make up an economy. "Our measure of business sentiment suggests firms are downbeat. We suspect policy uncertainty is one factor, along with other headwinds facing the economy at present. But it is important to look at business sentiment in the context of other survey measures and economic indicators," said Liz Kendall, senior economist at ANZ.
But falling business confidence has also been cited as a failure of the Labour-led government. Last month, National's economic development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said business confidence was falling "because the Ardern Peters Government has no positive economic plan and its leading ministers demonstrate little understanding of business realities."
Kendall said the survey's measure of expected activity "maps well with official GDP figures produced by Statistics New Zealand (and the QSBO), meaning it provides a reliable and robust gauge of business activity." Many of the ANZBO indicators "are corroborated by NZIER’s QSBO – an entirely independent survey."