It has been criticised as the 'One Dollar Budget' and a bribe for the wealthy.
Political reaction to Steven Joyce’s first Budget as Finance Minister flowed thick and fast Thursday afternoon. Joyce’s set-piece ‘families package’ drew the most criticism.
Labour Party leader Andrew Little said the release was nothing but an election bribe to the wealthiest in society.
“This is simply cynical electioneering that does nothing to address the shortfalls in health, housing and education, and in fact makes them worse. It’s not a Budget for the future, it’s a Budget for September 23,” Little said.
“We can't afford National’s election bribe when young couples can’t buy their first home, when our hospitals are turning away patients, when kids are living in cars, when education standards are slipping, and when roads are clogged.
“For all National’s talk about tax cuts, the reality is that a single cleaner on a minimum wage will get just $1 a week extra. It’s the One Dollar Bill Budget,” he said.
This meant the big winners were “the top earners who take home most of the tax benefits.”
“This is a tired Government whose only idea left is to splash the cash instead of a genuine commitment to fix housing, health, education and infrastructure,” Little said.
“In health, this Budget is $200 million a year short of what DHBs need to stand still. In education, schools are short $70 million at a time when we have overcrowding and falling standards.
“And in housing National is only building one affordable house a day in Auckland for every 100 new Aucklanders. Labour is committed to fixing the housing crisis, clearing our roads of gridlock, and fixing the $1.7 billion hole in health.
A budget for the wealthy
Meanwhile, Green Party co-leader James Shaw said the Budget gave with one hand and took away with another. Wealthy New Zealanders were given the biggest break, he said.
“The only pie Bill English should be eating today is humble pie. We’ve had nine years of National in government and there is a decent surplus and all we’ve seen today is more tinkering.
“This Budget will make little difference to the lives of those who need it the most, and no difference at all for our environment.
“National couldn’t just give – they had to take away as well. National is increasing Working for Families credits for some, but have increased the severity of the abatement rates – making it harder for people to improve their circumstances.”
There was also a tax cut for the rich in disguise. “Those on the highest incomes will get the bulk of the benefit. Families on the highest incomes receive a tax cut of $33.22 while those in the bottom quintile get just five dollars a week. This is not what low and middle income earners need,” Shaw said.
“With this Budget, National has once and for all given up on addressing the causes of the housing crisis. Instead it is committed to spending hundreds of millions of dollars on stop-gap, piecemeal measures that are a band-aid, rather than a cure. There is nothing in here to dampen housing speculation or rampant investment,” he said.
“The Government expects rents to keep rising, and more people to require emergency housing. It has admitted defeat in the face of the housing crisis.
There was nothing in the Budget to “clean up our polluted rivers, lakes and streams, or protect our drinking water. A million dollars for one fund isn’t going to cut it – especially when National refuses to turn pollution off at the tap,” Shaw said.
“The Green Party will not allow one more lake or river to be polluted when in government – under National pollution will only get worse.
“National’s utter lack of leadership on climate change continues with this Budget. There is a paltry $4 million increase in funding to stop climate change, while there is also a $300 million increase in subsidies for polluters,” he said.
“What New Zealanders will be judging National on in September isn’t just what they say today, it will be their record on delivering solutions on the environment, incomes and housing over the last nine years. And National’s record is broken.”
Massive rise in inequality
New Zealand First’s Winston Peters said New Zealand in the last nine years had experienced a massive rise in inequality of incomes, wealth and opportunity.
“This budget should be careful to inform the country of potential instability and volatility so people can act accordingly. It should have addressed the stupid comment by a writer in the NZ Herald today that the government is “swimming in money.”
“The budget has no measures to turn around the decline in manufacturing and exports as a percentage of GDP, and set out clear tax policy to revive commerce and attack our national indebtedness,” Peters said.
“Only yesterday the Overseas Merchandise Trade statistics reveal the stunning success of National’s much-vaunted, tiring boastful export agenda. In the 12-months to April 2017, New Zealand’s merchandise exports grew by a staggering 0.2%. Multiply that by 10 years, what do you get? You get 2 percent. Two percent for a decade under National.”
“This is a willful, wanton, weak, wobbly, woeful minister with a willful, wanton weak, wobbly, woeful Budget full of posturing, half-truths and misinformation.”