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robson-on-politics May 15: budget special

robson-on-politics May 15: budget special

A double edition this week: what we achieved in the Budget, what we would implement in an ideal world, and why we disagree on fee levels for students at university, polytechnics, and other tertiary institutions.

Four weeks leave, foreign affairs, and more

Budget Special: The fourth centre-left Budget Today is the fourth budget we have been involved with as part of a centre-left government.

Our aim in that time has been to implement economic and social policies that:
* lead to sustainable economic development
* underpin full employment, free healthcare, free education & adequate housing
* deliver security for all New Zealanders.

Our central focus since 1999 has been on job creation. That needs a growing economy, which in turn requires government partnership with business and regions. As part of government our policies have helped to shape this budget.

We have achieved a lot:
* $85 million more for industry training schemes - we will have 100,000 in training by 2005
* Another $56 million towards getting all youth under 20 into jobs, education or training by 2007
* Better state housing and more of it
* More children will receive cheap or free doctors visits
* By 2005 the elderly will receive cheaper health care
* Addressing drug abuse and youth suicide
* Funding for Youthline to move toward 24 hour operation, supporting young people needing help
* Extension of Project Early to Auckland - reflecting our emphasis on early intervention for safer communities
* Boosted funding for early childhood education.

Economic development investment a key feature:

The Budget includes:

* $37 million over four years for a long term trade development strategy

* $400 million over four years being added to the existing $112 million for industry and regional development funding

* $1.9 million a year for three years for a sustainable cities work programme.

In an ideal world Of course our Progressive manifesto aims for more - we want all our people to be in work, education or training - not just the young. We want a greater commitment to housing. We want all barriers to tertiary education removed. We want more done to make the tax system more progressive by lowering effective taxes for low and middle income working families. So we're already working on the budgets for 2004 and 2005. Jim's budget speech to Parliament and mine will be on < > very soon

What goes up should come down: tertiary fees But as the song goes, you don't always get what you want. The Progressives want student fees to come down and eventually be scrapped. Thus we have disagreed with our coalition partner and opposed the part of the Budget that allows some fee hikes. We have acknowledged in Cabinet that our policy would require greater government spending that would have to come from putting education ahead of other areas of government spending and /or having a reduced surplus. See:

Submissions on four weeks leave I spoke to the Council of Trade Unions national affiliates meeting this morning. Unions have been active is spreading the four weeks message. We are about to distribute a poster through unions and from my office. Ask if you want one or more to put on a notice-board. Unions will be making submissions to the Select Committee, emphasising the support among their members for this key social measure. I encourage readers to send in their own submission by the June 6 deadline. For details on writing yours, see The main campaign page as a lot of ideas to get you started on a submission: And I can fax material on request if you don't have Internet access.

Government partnership delivering jobs The Household Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2003 shows our partnership approach to economic development is providing the right framework for jobs. There are now 1,895,000 people with jobs. That is another record, 28,000 more than a year ago, and a whopping 132,000 since we came into government. Unemployment, while still under 100,000 people, is a reminder there is more work to be done.

Reviewing the Centre Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard is leading a "Review of the Centre" which is aimed at reorganising a number of central government departments. Once key decisions have been made I will let readers know the shape of the new departments.

The salary would be nice The NZ Herald had me last week supervising, as Minister of Corrections, the new men's prison to be built south of Auckland. Now I didn't mind getting all the NIMBY (not in my back-yard) objections when I was responsible for all that but now I'd prefer that the actual minister took the flak. A correction was printed on Friday.

On the move On Thursday I visited a restorative justice seminar in Rangiora. Participants were from around the South island. They are the ones working with victims (those who agree) and offenders (who acknowledge doing wrong) before the Court imposes sentence. It was evident that restorative justice, particularly as it is now part of the new Sentencing Act, is playing a greater role within the justice system. One of the topics was how Maori were involved in the development of restorative justice and another whether domestic violence cases, not presently part of the Court Pilot projects, should be part of Restorative Justice conferences. A number of the participants were already accepting domestic violence cases. I promised to take this up at government level. Then to Kaikohe for a powhiri for the manager of the new prison at Ngawha. Hundreds attended to recognise the partnership between Corrections and local iwi, the new rehabilitation practices being developed, and the involvement of Maori as partners. Monday found me in Levin talking about poverty issues with local Progressives and students. I spent Tuesday morning in New Plymouth with members and talking to people about restorative justice. _____________________

Smart Growth Day On Friday, 38 Government MPs visited businesses and research institutes across New Zealand to highlight the way we are active in developing our economy. New ideas are driving business growth which is delivering jobs. Jim Anderton, with Steve Maharey, announced the new Bio Commerce centre in Palmerston North and later that day Jim visited the Canterbury electronics cluster, a group of seven firms working together to boost exports and growth. See:

If we'd kept up with the Aussies, we'd be rich Jim Anderton spoke at a forum today discussing the main drivers of economic growth and the appropriate Government response to achieve higher rates of growth. The reality is that in 1970 New Zealand's income per person was roughly the same as Australia's. To have kept up with the Aussies, we only needed to grow by 1% a year more than we did - but we didn't manage that. Keeping up with the Aussies would have made a tremendous difference: research shows that it would have meant an average $175 a week for each working person, and another $3,700 million a year for health, and another $3,500 per student each year. So learning the lessons to achieve growth is important. See:

Canada's dairy decision benefits New Zealand On Iraq, New Zealand consistently called for the world to work in the multi-lateral forum of the United Nations. Sadly the Bush administration chose to do otherwise. Better news that Canada has dismantled a dairy subsidy programme after New Zealand took a case to the WTO. We benefit by having a rules-based trade system where disputes can be resolved multi-laterally. See:

Pakistan: steps to denuclearisation When Pakistan offered to get rid of its nuclear weapons if India did the same, I said New Zealand should vigorously encourage India to accept this important step forward. See:

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