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Anderton: Budget Speech

Hon Jim Anderton

Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity
Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Forestry
Associate Minister of Health
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education

Progressive Leader

27 May 2008 Speech

Budget speech

Madam Speaker, The Progressive Party is proud to vote for this budget.

The budget puts significantly more in the pockets of most families.

The budget delivers better health care and builds a stronger economy.

The budget cuts taxes, not spending at a time when the economy is slowing.

I remember when the going got tough for National, they cut superannuation, they cut benefits, they cut services; But this government has built, and will continue to build, them all.

This budget carefully provides for better incomes across all of New Zealand. It doesn’t herd the biggest tax cuts towards those who need them least.

Because it is fair, it is caring and a caring New Zealand is what the Progressives are here to support.

When it comes to assessing whether the budget is good for New Zealand – we are a lot more concerned about caring for people.

Although there are far too many New Zealanders who have been left behind for far too long, this government has done a lot to reduce poverty.

In the last three or four years more children have been lifted out of poverty than at any time since the Great Depression.

Income related rents, cheaper doctors visits and much more have helped low income households.

Nothing has done more to lift more families out of work than creating a thousand jobs a week, every week, for the last eight years.

I’m proud of all that.

But we also need to hear more about the people still left behind.

There are thousands of families struggling with increased petrol costs and rising food prices.

There are thousands who are struggling to make ends meet.

We must show we care about them.

So it’s time we started testing more policies against the standard of the way a caring country takes care of its most vulnerable?

It takes some strength to speak out for people and care for them. In all the talk about tax rates, and climate change, and the other important stuff, how much of that strength have we heard?

Let me give the House one example:

This week I’m going to announce a decision about dolphins.

It’s an important issue - and I get an awful lot of letters about it.

People organise marches at parliament. They send me postcards and fill my mailbag, they paint dolphins on walls and they run campaigns.

Good for the dolphins. But how many people do that for humans? How many care about people who are struggling?

Imagine if you get sick so you can’t get work and can’t get ACC. How would you make ends meet? I don’t read many editorials about them.

The editorials as well as the press releases of the opposition have been filled with calls for tax cuts.

And this budget delivered on tax cuts. It went as far as anyone could sensibly go.

Next budget, I hope we hear a lot more about people below the average wage. There are far more of them than those above it.

But if you want to care for people, you have to strengthen the economy.

And I am very pleased that this budget makes a commitment to an historic initiative to strengthen our economy by strengthening research and innovation in our pastoral and food sectors.

New Zealand Fast Forward is a land mark investment in science and innovation. The $700 million it invests is the largest single injection into science and research in New Zealand’s history. With matching contributions from the private sector, it will grow to be worth two billion over the ten to fifteen years the fund will operate.

It is the best shot we have at achieving a step-change in our economic performance.

So what does the National Party do when they see a strong and far-sighted investment in the future? They opposed it.

First they opposed it because they didn’t understand it.

So I invited them to a full briefing with officials to go over all the details. They changed their mind and wouldn’t come. They wouldn’t come because they didn’t want to know the facts. They wanted only to criticise

I see farmers everywhere who are disgusted that National is axing the fund. Business people can’t believe it.

But I’m not surprised.

I’ve been watching the National Party make policy - and it is entirely ad hoc. They might have the largest Opposition support team ever - ironically for a party that says it wants to cut waste - but they seem to do no work.

They even tell us what they are going to do on tax!

Here is what the Herald said this week - you know the Herald, that well known friend of the government:

“Now the Budget is behind us, the National Party has less excuse for indecision on most of the important issues facing the country….As recently as eight days ago finance spokesman Bill English could not answer a question as basic as whether National would keep the top tier, 39c in the dollar.”

How can you criticise the budget when you can’t produce an alternative?

Anyone can sit on the sidelines and complain. But criticism is meaningless unless you can propose a better idea. Where is it? Where is the National Party’s better idea?

How can you be against the budget tax cuts when you can’t even tell us what would be better?

They don’t have to tell us all the details - just tell us the answer to a couple of simple philosophical questions.

Does National think someone on the average wage with two kids deserves tax cuts as big as someone on the top tax rate?

Does National support the Business Roundtable’s call for a flat tax system?

Now, I have no trouble in saying to this House I do not support a flat tax rate.

I could ask my government colleagues in the Labour Party - and they would have no trouble stating where they stand on flat tax rate.

I could ask just about everyone in this House. The Act Party know where they stand.

But when the Business Roundtable came up with a flat tax rate - what did we hear from the National Party?

Stony silence.

Their silence is the silence of those who are hoping you won’t notice that they are going to filch the family savings for a spending spree.

Theirs is the silence not of the lost, but of the secretive, of the covert.

National is the only party in this House that won’t say whether it philosophically supports or opposes a flat tax.

What we do know is the National Party says it’s going to give away even bigger tax cuts. John Key has promised everyone North of fifty dollars a week.

I don’t believe they will do that. Are they really going to give beneficiaries and superannuitants $50 a week? Will they give someone on the average wage with two kids $50 a week?

If they aren’t - I look forward to hearing why someone on the top tax rate should get more but not someone who is struggling to pay their way.

I can’t understand why you couldn’t answer whether you are going to keep the top rate or not - Unless you had a secret agenda you knew people don’t want.

Let’s say they just gave $50 a week more to everyone over the average wage. Where would the money come from? It would come from debt.

Imagine going to the bank and taking out a loan so that you could spend more on groceries every week.

That is apparently the National Party alternative.

But we can’t be sure, because they won’t tell us what they will do.

What we begin to see here is weakness.

National is too weak to stand up and propose and defend its beliefs.

A lot of commentators have called John Key “slippery”. I don’t think any longer that this is the right description. The real problem is weakness.

National - and especially its leader - are too weak to stand up to voters and state plainly they support a flat tax rate proposed by the business roundtable. Or else they are too weak to say to their donors in big business that they do not support a flat tax.

Whichever it is, one group - their supporters or their donors - is going to be bitterly disappointed.

The thing about government is you have to be strong. People have to know where you stand. There is no place to hide.

You have to be strong enough to front the hard issues, or you will get run over.

The more you look at John Key and the National Party the more you see a party that is too weak for office. They don’t have the strength to front the tough issues.


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