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ACT Responds To The Budget

ACT Responds To The Budget

This is the response by individual ACT Spokesmen to the Labour-Progressive Government's 2004 Budget delivered today. ACT New Zealand Leader Richard Prebble and Finance Spokesman Rodney Hide are issuing separate statements.

Corrections. Stephen Franks said: "I applaud the Government's U-turn in this area. Labour came to power five years ago slamming the Withers Referendum result, and vowing to get at the causes of crime instead of building prisons. This is an admission that it has done neither. I predict Labour will need far more for prisons because every grudging step to toughen up is matched by backdoor softening. We're getting the worst of all choices - loaded prisons and high crime."

Economic Development. Deborah Coddington said: "Dr Michael Cullen and Jim Anderton continue to pick winners by taxing over 300,000 small business owners, then dishing this money out, like corporate lollypops, to the favoured few - and all for a Ministerial photo opportunity. It's both wrong and totally unfair.

Education. Deborah Coddington said: "Labour's cynical attempt to woo the student vote by lifting the student allowance threshold will fail. Throwing money at the student debt problem has not worked - as evidenced by the Government's failure to reduce student indebtedness by scrapping the interest on loans while studying. Under Labour, the average student loan has increased by 25 percent, and the total student debt has doubled to over $6 billion.

Energy. Ken Shirley said: "The Government's clammy hands are slowly strangling New Zealand's energy sector. The much-needed investment and innovation in energy is not occurring, and Labour's response has been the establishment of a bureaucratic Commission. Driven by ideological mantras that inhibit a market response, This Government has overseen a reversion to monopoly State ownership in generation, reticulation and supply. New Zealand desperately needs more market, and less government, in the energy sector if we are to ensure that supply of this vital service meets the demand at optimum price."

Families. Heather Roy said: "Families in New Zealand would benefit far more from a tax cut. They are heavily taxed. The one thing the Government could have done to significantly benefit New Zealand families was to decrease taxation to a flat rate of 20 percent.

Health. Heather Roy said: "DHB deficits are projected at $55 million next year, and $49 million the year after. The $500 million poured into health will only serve as a Band-Aid over a gaping wound. It will not stem the bleeding that the health sector is currently experiencing. Several District Health Boards continue to have deficit blowouts, and the $55 million will only allow the health sector to tread water. The $70 million package, ring-fenced for hip and knee operations, shows Labour's real agenda of centrally controlling the health budget.

Housing. Dr Muriel Newman said: "There are currently more than 6,000 people on Housing New Zealand's `at risk' or `in serious need' State house waiting lists. With so many families now in dire need of a roof over their heads, the Government's policy of giving people a low rental State house for life is totally unfair. Labour should have the courage to introduce State housing time limits, to ensure that families are not left homeless while others enjoy cheap rent for decades.

Justice Stephen Franks said: "The gobbledygook in calling the justice spending `investment' is breathtaking. The extra seven percent per year for courts is funding more judges. Each judge represents a whole nest of lawyers, counsellors, professional witnesses and other administration people. Most of those costs come out of the pockets of people ensnared in litigation. Litigation is not investment - it is a dead loss to everyone."

Maori Affairs. Stephen Franks said: "The most eloquent gap in this Budget is where `closing the gaps' would have been if the Prime Minister had not panicked. She sent it underground two years ago. The last remnant of the bucket loads poured into political patronage can be seen in the $14 million `for locally-based whanau initiatives'. With Maoridom now planning to vote for other people they can trust, all the earlier political `investment' at taxpayer expense has been wasted from Labour's perspective. We can assume this $14 million will be disbursed in a last attempt to buy votes for the remnant Maori Labour Caucus. A sorry remnant of the flagship policy in Labour's first speech from the throne.

Police. Dr Muriel Newman said: "Crime is on the rise throughout the country, and the Government's response is to divert police resources from catching criminals to fining motorists. Police have been turned into cash cows, having last year issued a record 400,000 tickets. If Labour truly cared about keeping New Zealanders safe, it would allocate enough resources to allow police to do their job."

Rural Affairs and Biosecurity. Gerry Eckhoff said: "The Labour Government appears ignorant of the fact that there is life outside the cities. Once again, rural New Zealand is the big loser of a Labour Budget, while those dependent on the State for a living are the winners. The Government has failed to deliver tax relief to farmers; there has been no relief from red tape - like the RMA - and the problem of growing rural crime has been swept under the carpet and ignored."

Transport. Deborah Coddington said: "Again, Labour has displayed its ideological opposition to motorists with its refusal to provide any relief for vehicle owners in this Budget. We have seen Labour's petrol tax increases, on top of a general rise in petrol prices, forcing motorists to pay through the nose to re-fuel their vehicles - but with no noticeable improvements for roading.

Welfare. Dr Muriel Newman said: "The only way to close the gap between welfare and work is welfare reform. By making welfare more generous, Labour will trap thousands more families in the poverty of State dependency and cause thousands more working families to struggle. This is a double trap - beneficiaries are trapped in welfare, and working taxpayers are stuck having to support them. If Labour were a responsible government, this would be a welfare reform Budget, rather than a welfare handout Budget."

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