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Pansy Speak: 'The State Knows Best' Budget

Pansy Speak

‘The State Knows Best’ Budget

This year’s Budget has fallen far short of Labour’s much-trumpeted visions of creating a national identity, bringing about economic transformation, and building strong families. Take away the election bribes, the long-overdue funding for roads, and the payments made to the Greens, United Future and NZ First to stay in Government, and you are left with nothing more than a bland shopping list.

There has been much speculation about this being Michael Cullen’s last Budget, and it very well may be, judging by his lackluster performance in the House. Helen Clark has mused publicly about his future, and even websites for the New Zealand embassies in China, Argentina, Korea, Japan, Spain, and Thailand all list Jim Anderton as the Deputy Prime Minister!

While all of Cullen’s Budgets have been sleep inducing, he has stayed true to his dislike of tax cuts – we haven’t seen any. It must be frustrating for Kiwis that they haven’t been given anything back, despite a record $8.5 billion surplus. Labour gushes that 350,000 families will be receiving ‘targeted tax relief’ through Working for Families when it reaches full speed, but what about those who don’t get anything at all? Then there’s the bureaucracy that we pay to process tax from these families then re-package it and give it back to them as ‘tax-relief’.

Cullen has said that this year is forecast to be the last year that we will have a cash surplus, but this is no excuse because he always likes to talk down the massive tax machine that Labour runs. When Labour went into government the total amount of tax collected was $34.9 billion – that figure has now increased by 60% to around $56.7 billion.

This is all part of Labour’s ideology that the state knows best and should be in control of everything.

Not satisfied with losing the spotlight over the Telecom leak, Communications Minister David Cunliffe stepped way outside his ministerial boundaries this week with comments about Telecom’s dividends policy that wiped another $200 million off the company’s value. The Stock Exchange has referred the comments to the Securities Commission for investigation after complaints from market participants. Ministers in his position should know better. Cunliffe clearly believes that the Nanny State is in command of publicly owned companies.

Lower net migration has been noted as a factor in the downturn in our economy, yet there are no new ground-breaking initiatives in the Budget for Immigration NZ. The only activity of note is the review that is currently under way, but its completion date and what real results it will bring are unknown. Decisive action needs to be taken now to make sure that the Skilled Migrant Category is being run efficiently and getting the best results.

The drop in the number of international students coming to New Zealand to study has also been noted. There were 16,000 fewer student permits and visas issued between 2002/03 and 2004/05. The next financial year will see an increased focus on building an international network of education counsellors, but I fail to see how this will help boost the sector. We haven’t seen any tangible results from the counsellors employed so far, and there doesn’t seem to be any performance criteria that we can measure any achievement against. Why should we invest in something if we don’t know it works?

The forthcoming announcement by Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel about the review of our regulatory environment has already been discounted by Cullen’s comments that many of the concerns of business indicate the problems are often around how the rules are being implemented and that the Government will commission further research on this.

The Commerce Minister also seems to be missing the mark in heralding the increased funding for litigation for the Securities Commission and the Commerce Commission. This announcement emphasises Labour’s deep-seated distrust of and antagonistic attitude toward business.

With Clark as the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage more funding has been found for NZ On Air, National Radio and the Treaty Settlement Office. Somehow she believes that the extra millions of dollars of funding will help build national identity.

Labour believes that national identity is tied up with public institutions and a Government mandate.

National identity is the indescribable feeling that we all have for being unashamedly Kiwi and not having to go overseas to seek better opportunities. Right now, tens of thousands of Kiwis are doing just that, and Cullen’s latest snore-worthy Budget will do nothing to bring them back.

Pansy Wong


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