Budget 2017 is a disappointment.
National have taken the approach of a poorly-targeted tax cut that benefits people with higher incomes more than those who are battling.
They have squandered the chance to fix the housing crisis and re-build our battered health and education systems.
Instead, they have gone for an election year budget with an eye for September 23, not the 21st Century.
The reality is that $5 of every $7 in National’s package is poorly-directed through the tax cuts. Labour cannot support an approach that perpetuates inequality.
Around 800,000 New Zealanders on taxable incomes below $14,000 get nothing from this. The 500,000 low income workers currently getting the Independent Earners’ Tax Credit lose that $10 a week, and are left with just an extra dollar a week.
That is why we are calling this the ‘One Dollar Bill Budget.’
The winners in the tax cuts are those like the Finance Minister and Prime Minister, who will gain 20 times what a single person working fulltime on the minimum wage gets.
That is simply not fair. Under nine years of National the gaps between rich and poor have only grown wider.
As a politician, I can look at the Budget and see there are some clever politics here. But it does not have the vision or the solutions that New Zealand needs.
This budget does not have new thinking in it, it does not show how our economy is going to create decent work with higher wages, and it does not support Kiwis to get the knowledge and training opportunities to participate in the new economy.
And it does not properly deal with the need to build affordable homes for first home buyers, or ending homelessness, or many of the social foundations so that all New Zealanders can share our prosperity.
The Government has said it wants to double crew ambulances, but sadly those ambulances are still parked at the bottom of the cliff.
My Budget 2018
The Budget that I would present in 2018 as the next Finance Minister of New Zealand would be about giving every New Zealander a fair shot at success. Here are five examples of the areas on which I would focus:
Housing: Building houses for first home buyers that they can afford. Labour’s KiwiBuild programme would deliver thousands of homes sold at cost to first home buyers, with the proceeds used to build more affordable homes.
Health: Labour would fund health properly for our growing population and start to restore the $1.7 billion of funding cuts that have left our health system in crisis, especially in mental health.
Education: Labour believes in an education system that prepares people for the 21st century. This starts with better funding for Early Childhood Education so our kids have the best start they can have, through better school funding beyond. Labour’s Three Years Free post-secondary school education and training will help all New Zealanders adapt to the ever-changing world of employment and careers.
Equality: Labour commits to supporting the most vulnerable New Zealanders – they’re missing out completely by the tax package that’s in this Budget. The fact is that the tax benefits in this budget support the wealthiest already, while a single person on a cleaner’s wage stands to benefit only $1 more a week.
Water: Labour would invest more into cleaning up our waterways. It’s every Kiwi’s birth right to enjoy our beautiful landscapes and swim in our rivers. National’s belated response to nine years of mismanagement and ignorance was simply to change the E. coli standards. That’s a gross abrogation of the Government’s guardianship of our environment. Labour would make our rivers swimmable.
A Budget that I deliver would be a Budget to give all New Zealanders security and opportunity, not just in the run to an election, but for the long term.
Grant Robertson is elected Member of Parliament from Wellington Central and Labour Party’s Finance Spokesman.