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Budget Day 2011 speech - Jim Anderton

Budget Day 2011 speech - Jim Anderton

This budget signals that the National Government has decided to preside over a dying economy.

Why? Because the most important social and economic investment in the future of any country is its investment in education.

This budget says that in the four financial years 2011/12 to 2014/15 government investment in education will increase by $197 million – that’s less than the $50 million /year - out of a budget of over $12,000 million /year – an increase of only 0.004% per year.

And provision for welfare benefits (unemployment, sickness and invalids) in the same period increases by $3153 million. Twice as much as money benefits that for Health and Education combined.

These facts would be ludicrous if they were not so tragic.

Look at the economy this government inherited.

In 2008, unemployment was the lowest in the OECD. It was 3.5 per cent of the labour force. And because there were jobs, people moved off benefits in record numbers.

In April 2008 – just three years ago - 17 per cent of children in New Zealand lived with someone who was reliant on a benefit.

Today, after three years of a National Government, unemployment is back up again at the levels last seen the last time they were in office, in the nineties. Benefit numbers are up again because the real jobs aren’t there.

More than 32-thousand more children are reliant on benefits today than in April 2008. And because New Zealanders are not in work and earning, the books have turned to a sea of red.

In 2008, the government had a fiscal surplus of 2.7 billion dollars. In the fiscal update just before the 2008 election, the government accounts were forecast to remain in surplus for the forecast period. The Crown was contributing to the Superannuation Fund and had no net debt at all.

Today, the government announces a fiscal deficit of $17 billion dollars. But look where that deficit has come from: The income tax cuts on 1 October last year cost 17.8 billion over four years.

The top ten per cent of income earners alone got income tax cuts worth $44 million a week. The government is borrowing two and a half billion dollars a year just for tax cuts for the top ten per cent of income earners alone.

This Government likes to blame its books on the previous government. I’m sick of hearing it because it is not true. Their problem is they can’t take personal responsibility. They have to find someone or something to blame because they can’t fix the problems.

So they blame the global crisis.

They blame the earthquakes.

Those events made things worse – that’s true.

But bad management made the economy worse still.

They were going to catch Australia.

Bill English and John Key were going to close the wage gap with Australia – Yeah Right!.

Australia went through the global financial crisis too. Australia has been hit by devastating natural disasters too - like floods and the unprecedented hurricane in Queensland.

But here’s what the Australian Treasurer had to say about his budget, delivered last week: “Our economy has been hit in the short term by the recent natural disasters which have devastated families and communities. …But growth is strengthening … Unemployment is low and is set to fall even further.

We've seen over 700,000 jobs created since we came to Government and we expect to see a further half a million jobs added by mid-2013.

Our public finances are in relatively good nick. We'll be back in the black in 2012/13.

So much for New Zealand catching Australia!

And all this Government has to say about why they’ve weathered the storm and we haven’t is that Australia has mining.

That ignores the fact that we have been enjoying the best commodity prices ever. We’ve had the most favourable terms of trade in history.

No, the problem is that National had no ideas to fix the economy – and still hasn’t got any!

John Key came into office promising tax cuts that everyone would share in, and promising that those tax cuts would help us catch Australia.

His government has failed on every one of its own targets. Most New Zealanders didn’t get a net tax cut - they got a small cut that was cancelled out by the rise in GST, and the subsequent price rises that soared ahead of their incomes.

Imagine if the National Party had produced an election manifesto that said: “We will increase GST. “We will cut Working for Families. “We will cut your KiwiSaver, not once but twice. “We will cut student loans. “And we will give tax cuts costing $44 million a week to the top ten per cent of earners.”

They would not have dared set out that plan before voters. But that is how they have governed.

They got elected on promises they couldn’t keep.

Governments in the 80s and 90s did that and got thrown out but John Key wasn’t in NZ then, he was overseas working in the money speculation business.

National didn’t trust New Zealanders enough before the election to tell the truth - that tax cuts meant spending cuts and deficits. And today they don’t trust New Zealanders enough to tell the truth about the cause of their deficits today.

The sort of government that is too weak to front up to the truth is a government that is too weak to make the changes New Zealand needs.

There is a predictable outcome to this failure: People suffer. And the more vulnerable they are, the less resilient they are, and the more they suffer.

Children are being admitted to hospital for diseases that are clearly linked to poverty - there were an extra six hospital admissions for infectious diseases and respiratory diseases every day in 2009, compared with two years before, and the figures are worse now.

When families don’t have adequate incomes, and jobs, their children live in poor housing conditions, they lack nourishment, they are not warm enough.

Their health suffers.

Their opportunities suffer even more.

How much harder is it for children in the thousands more poor homes this government has created, than for a child in one of the affluent and privileged homes they have heavily favoured?

This government should be ashamed of itself.

In 2008, the main breadwinner was unemployed in about 7 per cent of Maori and Pacific families.

Today, that figure has doubled - fourteen per cent of Maori and Pacific families don’t have someone going to work and bringing home a wage or salary.

That is the Maori Party’s legacy for supporting National.

What does that means in practice?

Half of kids whose families are living in severe hardship have not got suitable wet weather gear because of the cost. A third of them don’t have a pair of shoes in good condition. They miss out on the experience of growing up, like owning a bike or a personal computer.

Two thirds miss out on school outings, or involvement in sports, half miss out on school books or a visit to the doctor because of the cost.

All of these are things that virtually every kid whose parents have a decent income takes for granted.

The National Government has one single programme to fix the issue: Selling our power companies.

That won’t lift one child out of poverty. It won’t create one job.

Not one of those families in poverty will be queuing up at the stock brokers to buy shares in the companies.

And when those companies are snapped up by overseas buyers, the prices we pay will rise. The profits will disappear overseas. The tax on profits will be dodged.

And if the National Party is back in office, it will come back to the table and ask again for more because its policies have failed.

There’s nothing new here.

This is a return to the failed policies of the nineties.

The policies that fail people.

Fail to create jobs, fail to lift incomes.

Fail to create a stronger future for New Zealand.


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