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Leader's Letter: Budget special

Leader's Letter

Budget special
May 18, 2006 No. 6

Budgets are useful documents in the political process; they can allow you to see where the country has been and where it’s headed.

It’s also useful for parties such as United Future to carry out an annual stocktake on how much progress we’ve made in influencing the major party in government to agree with our policies.

Late each year, the United Future caucus writes to the Minister of Finance, setting out our basic wishlist of what we’d like to see in the Budget and then we can compare our list with what actually appears.

By that measure, we’ve done reasonably well this year.

For example, we pushed for more funds to complete the rollout of the Well Child programme. The Budget delivers $23.6 million over the next four years to do exactly that as well as creating a ‘school ready’ health check for four-year-olds. So our support for the New Zealand family in making sure our kids are healthy gets another boost.

Support for the victims of crime has long been a United Future theme. The Budget has more than $10.8 million over four years for the restructuring of the agency Victim Support.

We wanted the number of modern apprenticeships to be boosted to 10,000. The Budget has $34.4 million over four years to lift that number to 14,000 by December 2008. We’ll have to learn to think bigger! United Future has long campaigned for pay and conditions to be significantly improved for workers in the aged care sector. So we’re delighted to see the Budget provides $126 million over the next four years for improving home-based support services and age-related residential care for older New Zealanders.

Even more importantly, the Minister of Health, Pete Hodgson, says “the aged care package ... should allow for significant pay increases to New Zealanders working in the sector."

This is a big win for those people who look after our elderly and we’re delighted to see it.

I don’t want to leave the impression United Future is solely responsible for these tangible gains. But I do want to make the point that having a good working relationship with the major party in power can lead to significant advances in our long-term goals.

Another point of satisfaction: when United Future entered Parliament in 2002 with a strong emphasis on the family, we endured a certain level of scorn and derision from political opponents.

Proof that we were right is very evident in this Budget where the Government has made “Families, Young and Old” one of the three over-riding themes and is proudly pointing out more than $6 billion of spending to make families, healthier, wealthier and feeling more secure.

What was once fringe thinking is now firmly in the mainstream and United Future can take a great deal of credit for that.

You’ll have noticed we’ve freshened up our website with the intention of making it more accessible to our supporters.

There’s the poll where you can register your views and the forums where you can engage in (hopefully) rational debate on party policy and issues of the day. These forums are important because they have the valuable function of letting us know what you’re thinking and ultimately helping us to form party policy.

We’ll be adding more to the website in the near future so it’s always a good idea to check in every few days to see what’s new.

Those of you who are Guiness Peat investors will have paid attention to yesterday’s announcement of a five-year holiday from the new overseas investment tax rules for GPG.

Superficial journalists rushed into print with cries of ‘embarrassing backdown’ and ‘u-turn’, thereby demonstrating their overall ignorance of rational policy formation.

There was nothing to be gained from the Government and one of New Zealand’s bestsupported companies engaging in a messy public slanging match, like small children in a schoolyard punchup.

Both parties, by continuing to talk and to listen to each other, were able to reach a suitable compromise that gives everyone time to breathe and rethink their position.

Dare I say it? It’s a commonsense solution to a complex problem.

Best wishes to you all

Peter Dunne


ENDS

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