Belter, Blowout, or just Boring?
So another budget has come and gone. What did you think?
Herald writer Patrick Smellie called it a “bland election year budget” saying “it doesn’t give opposition parties all that much to bite on, beyond general arm-waving about how much more the government spends these days than it used to. Even there, the attack line is not that strong.”
Considering it’s election year with the political constraints that brings, coupled with the challenges we have as a country, I thought it was a good budget. A solid Labour budget. I loved the investment in early childhood education, public transport for young people, the warmer homes programme, and no more prescription fees for anyone! Good stuff.
The Prescription Access Initiative (PAI) people were quite pleased.
"We are crying - we are so delighted, pleased and relieved for our communities - everyone will have better access to healthcare," said PAI spokesperson Vicky Chan.
"The positive impacts will be huge - it’s difficult to take in. We wholeheartedly congratulate and thank the Government for this fantastic move.
"This will save people pain, illness, heartbreak and distress." They called it a "very very good day" for all New Zealanders.
The game development sector will get $160 million, a 20 percent rebate. I really like this policy. The industry has been crying out for this sort of assistance, which is available in other countries. It’ll make a big difference to some businesses, including keeping some here that might’ve gone elsewhere.
On the tax side of things I was glad to see the trust tax rate raised to 39 percent, the same as the top income tax rate. A step towards addressing tax avoidance in Aotearoa.
Some will argue the budget did too much, others not enough, which I guess is the best you can hope for. Given everything else that is going on this budget is realistically about as good as we could’ve hoped for.
Personally I would’ve been happy for Grant to borrow more and spend more. There are long term problems that need major investment which we cannot address incrementally, patching over existing infrastructure. But it is election year and I’m a leftie. This was never going to be a budget that addressed the big things, they will remain for another day.
Robertson had a tightrope to walk between spending now to help people, versus financial restraint, and he did well. The budget neither cuts government spending in the austerity measures those across the floor would’ve liked, nor is it irresponsible, a Blowout Budget. Others of course may see things differently.
Over at NewsHub they had a random member of the public represent the views of New Zealanders. They chose Steve Christodolou. "We are definitely a loser," Christodolou said. "There is nothing in the Budget that's going to affect me in any way."
You might possibly recognise Steve. Not only has he appeared as a random member of the public on Newshub this budget, but he also played the same role of random member of the public back in November for a NewsHub piece titled “Middle-income Kiwis struggling as relentless cost of living crisis worsens”.
If you didn’t see Steve in November you might have seen him in March last year on the AM show as a random member of the public berating Jacinda Ardern over the cost of living.
There seems to be something they’re finding irresistible in terms of Steve’s attributes as a random member of the public, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. That is Steve on the right below in one of his “I’m voting National” profile shots. The chap on the left looks a bit familiar too, pretty sure his Dad wasn’t bad on the guitar.
Jenna Lynch gave her own view, “For anyone over 25 years old without children, sorry - you're a loser”. Very good, I’ll remember that next time I don’t have to pay for a prescription. A policy which is going to put extra dollars in the pockets of many and importantly ensure that the cost of a prescription is nor a barrier for those struggling.
Do we really need Jenna Lynch’s there is no society only the individual philosophy imposed on the narrative? Your ACT views are showing Jenna. Why describe those not directly benefiting from some items in the budget as being losers? If a young family gets better early childhood education then we all win, our society wins.
Meanwhile across the aisle from Grant Robertson’s calm delivery Christopher Luxon was going off like Lily from Best Save Furniture after dad had ordered too much stock again. It’s a Budget Blowout Bonanza he said, even though it was in fact restrained and really quite sensible.
Luxon had a lot to say but it seemed like his speech was written the night before by someone who hadn’t seen the budget. Someone who was just guessing, and planned to fill in the details when the budget was announced. But they forgot to add the actual details! So, embarrassingly, Luxon was left delivering a meaningless list of buzzwords and catch phrases with no connection to the contents of the budget.
So there he was, with the sort of parliamentary skills that would see him struggle to make a fourth form debating team, reading nonsense. It’s the blowout budget, he thundered despite the fact that it was obvious to everyone that it was nothing of the sort. Without questioning the leader over his lack of wardrobe his caucus happily tweeted the same message, the same catch phrase.
But before all of that Luxon delivered his word of the day, his buzzword du jour. You didn’t have to wait long, it was in his very first sentence, “Gaslighting”. I’m not sure if he keeps using it because he thinks it makes him sound young and hip - maybe it’s working, maybe there are kids in playgrounds, students on campuses, or Instagram Influencers, who have picked up on it and thought - there’s a man down with the kids.
Or is he saying it because he knows most of his target market have no idea what it means but they’re glad to have a cool young leader, who is up with the new terminology, representing them. Maybe he uses it because he just think it sounds like an evil thing to do. Ironically Mr Luxon himself is the Gaslighter in Chief.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser attempts to sow self-doubt and confusion in their victim's mind. Typically, gaslighters are seeking to gain power and control over the other person, by distorting reality and forcing them to question their own judgment and intuition.
Either way they’ve decided to run it, with Nicola Willis parroting the same phrase about gaslighting. She sounded like a robot, intoning the official party lines, without any of her own views. You might’ve thought the opposition finance spokesperson would’ve had more to offer than the sort of pull my cord catch phrases her leader is known for. For goodness sake, the man said “addicted to spending” nine times!
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Joking aside there was actually some very good analysis of the budget. If I was to recommend one article it would be Budget 2023: Keeping up with costs, a splash on investments by Shamubeel Eaqub.
Capital spending was the big star for me in this Budget. Capital spending will average $18.5b per year for the next three years, up from $9.7 in the past three years. Some of it is for flood and cyclone recovery, but nevertheless represents a significant effort at national rebuilding. New Zealand has an infrastructure deficit of $210b. So, this increase in investment is long overdue and welcome.
I’d rate the budget, and Grant Robertson, an 8/10. But it’s 1/10 for a leader of the opposition who offered nothing, no plans, nor reasoned dialogue, just silly soundbites. And a 0/10 for a National caucus grimly pretending their leader isn’t naked.
The song below goes out to Steve, not that he deserves one this good.