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Clare Curran: Clare Thinking - Budget Edition

May 27, 2014

BUDGET EDITION

A No Direction Budget

In mid-May the Government delivered its sixth budget, and for the sixth time it failed to deliver any real sense of direction for the future.

It failed to instill hope for the 147,000 New Zealanders who do not have jobs;

For the 285,000 children in this country living in poverty;

For the increasing number of New Zealanders who cannot afford to buy a home or who are having trouble paying the rent;

For those who, as winter sets in, can no longer meet their electricity bills;

It failed to show that it has any ideas to upgrade the New Zealand economy so that, together, we can address these issues.

Labour will put people first and do just that.

Labour’s housing and tax policies will restore the Kiwi dream of home ownership. We will stop offshore speculation in our housing market and build thousands of affordable homes.We’ll make it easier for Kiwis to make ends meet. Last year 46% of us didn’t get a pay rise. Average pay rates went up 1.6% when inflation was 1.5%.

We are determined to get Kiwis back to work. We aim to reduce unemployment to four per cent in our first term. We will modernise the economy, focusing on investment, innovation and industry to help create secure long-term jobs.

We have already announced industry upgrades for manufacturing and forestry. Businesses support our R&D tax credits for innovation, and tax incentives to increase productivity.

We will help exporters by lowering interest rates, which takes pressure off our overvalued exchange rate. Universal KiwiSaver, and the Variable Savings Rate, mean Kiwis will pay more money into their own savings, and less in interest.

Our Capital Gains Tax, excluding the family home, will direct capital, boosted by universal KiwiSaver, into productive Kiwi businesses and away from property speculation.

The choice is stark for us all this year. On one side Labour’s principled policies put people first; on the other, for National, it is business as usual.

A Labour Government to revive the collapsing wood industry

Budget 2014 not only fails the 147,000 New Zealanders currently without a job, it has nothing of substance to address the struggling forestry industry which is teetering on crisis point.

It has just been announced that 180 jobs are to be lost across South Otago with the closure of Southern Cross Forest Products. This is a body blow to the towns of Milton, Milburn, Balclutha and Mosgiel where the jobs losses were announced yesterday, hard on the heels of 79 jobs axed last month from the Rosebank Mill in Balclutha. Meanwhile the Dunedin City Council has also turned a blind eye and has allowed higher prices for unprocessed logs from its forestry companies to cloud its judgement about regional economic development.

Our region contains 11.8% of New Zealand’s forest plantations, by far the largest area in the South Island and the second largest in the country. But the wood processing industry is being mishandled; worth $4.5 billion per annum half the exports are raw logs which are being processed offshore, providing no incentive for overseas owners to add value in New Zealand.

A climate of fear has pervaded the forestry industry, with more than 3000 jobs lost in the wood processing sector since 2008.

Labour will change this. We will add value to our exports, and prioritise job creation in the process. Under the ‘economic upgrade’ package recently announced by David Cunliffe, Labour will offer a tax deferral for investment in plant and equipment within the forestry industry, which will encourage processing away from logs to higher value products. Alongside this, taskforces will be introduced to address the long-term unemployed in the sector, and a new focus on research and development will be introduced through an R&D tax credit.

These are not empty promises. For too long the forestry industry has been neglected. We now have a sturdy set of policies to address the decline.
No ifs, no buts. Regional New Zealand needs a plan to deliver jobs and economic growth. And politicians with vision. Labour will deliver.

If you have been affected by the recent job losses in South Otago please contact my office on 4555 299

Budget 2014 fails to remedy health woes

There was little in Budget 2014 to address the strains on our health system, particularly given the demands of our ageing population. As I understand it, funding for elective surgeries such as cataracts, hip and knee replacements has risen by only 0.1%, which will do little to curb the already hugely long waiting lists. Stories of lengthy waits for medical care are coming into my office with increased regularity, in several instances a routine ultrasound was taking between 48- 52 weeks to be performed.

Chronic under-staffing in our region’s hospitals has in fact worsened under this budget, with health and disability support services for the Southern District Health Board having been reduced by 0.2%. SDHB has struggled with under-staffing for many years, but it has come to a head in recent months with nurses organising a stop-work meeting to draw attention to the patient care being jeopardized due to staffing issues.

Once again we have been presented with a budget that champions economic recovery, but only advantages those who are already well off. Labour will always be an advocate for the most vulnerable, whether they be children or elderly.

Regional New Zealand can shine

If we are to believe the Government’s pronouncments, New Zealand currently has a ‘rockstar economy’, but the state of regional New Zealand tells a different story, as I imagine readers well know.

Any current economic growth is limited to New Zealand’s two ‘Supercities’ of Auckland and Christchurch, whereas 2013 figures from Statistics New Zealand show that eight of the fifteen regions have actually witnessed a decrease in GDP in the past two years. If we are to continue on this trend, New Zealand will fall victim to the full effects of a two-speed economy. And the 2014 Budget has done virtually nothing to remedy this.

Auckland received an injection of $375 million to help fund its transport projects, but the only sign of regional stimulus in Budget 2014 was a $40 million allocation for irrigation projects.

Auckland and Christchurch are important cities. But there’s a lot more to New Zealand. We’re a great country, but we’re not the best country to make a living in. In order to shift the economy into a higher gear we have to seriously look at how we can add value to what we’re already doing well. Labour will lead the way in ensuring regional New Zealand is put firmly back on the growth trajectory.

CONSTITUENT CLINICS

Weekly constituent clinics held on Fridays 9-10am

10 minute slots available

Mosgiel clinics held at the Downes Room from 2.30pm every fourthFriday of the month

For an appointment contact my office on (03) 4555 299


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