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Budget: Where is political imagination, courage?

Media Release – May 23 2008
The Social Justice Commissioner of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

Budget 2008:
Where is the political imagination and courage?

The Anglican Church's Social Justice Commissioner, The Rev'd Dr Anthony Dancer, responds to the Budget.

Dr Dancer acknowledges there are a number of important and positive measures in the Budget. However he notes that there were some important missed opportunities, not least the chance to set out a political bold vision for the future, beneficial to all New Zealanders.

"If Budgets are moral statements then I'm worried about where we are at. We seem to have reached a crossroads. It's a crossroads I would have hoped we would have the political imagination and courage to navigate differently.

"There seems a real resistance by both main parties to acknowledging the real economic and political transition taking place."

"It staggers me that there is so much focus on tax cutting when research continues to indicate we live in a country where the gap between the rich and the poor is continuing to increase, and the most vulnerable continue to be put out of sight. Ten years on from the Hikoi of Hope, the statement I would make about the pace of change since then is simply: 'It's not enough'.

"The Working for Families package has been hugely significant. But it can only do so much.

"Evidence suggests to really address poverty seriously a tax package like Working for Families requires the introduction of something like a universal child benefit.

"That's hardly new – but it is really beneficial. The continued focus upon tax breaks for some instead of a more universal approach to help everyone is very disappointing."

"We seem to be operating out of an old economic rule book which is mistakenly reliant on an economy based on cheap oil. Our economic and environmental conditions have shifted radically. This Budget seems out of step with that reality. Its economic distribution looks forward, but the political vision doesn't.

"The age of cheap oil is over. Climate change is a harsh reality. Change is inevitable. Price rises are guaranteed. Our survival requires us to get ahead of the game on this. It also requires us to ensure the poorest in our society are not forgotten about, but are part of this new economy."

Dr Dancer believes we need political vision for transition, and a commitment to directly addressing real poverty. "A Budget can only do so much. We cannot afford to prioritise tax cuts at the expense of real political vision. What so many of us have been looking for all these years isn't a reduction in taxation, but policies bold enough to help us transition into a new economic reality, and eradicate the poverty which undermines our nation with despair instead of hope."

"The Budget does a lot of good, but in the end it's a missed opportunity. It's our missed opportunity. It's not enough."


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