Next week Finance Minister Grant Robertson will deliver his first Budget and the country’s books are looking healthy. Mr Robertson inherited from National a growing economy and Government books in surplus, so there should be plenty of cash for this government.
In addition, Mr Robertson is increasing debt by $10 billion, getting increased revenue from the growing economy, and introducing a whole lot of new taxes. All up, he’s got $34 billion to spend over the next four years.
Yet despite all this, Labour is still finding it hard to meet all the excessive expectations they have built-up with voters and promises to their coalition partners. Budgets are about priorities. It’s hard to be sympathetic to this Government arguing it does not have enough money for universal cheaper GP visits for hardworking families, when it has already spent $2.8 billion on free university for first year law and accounting students and nearly a billion dollars in foreign affairs and an embassy in Sweden for Winston Peters.
When National left office last year, the economy was in great shape with high business confidence and low unemployment. Soon the Treasury will assess the impact of this Ardern-Peters Government’s low-growth policies. Grant Robertson has no plan to continue New Zealand’s recent economic growth and independent economists are already saying economic growth could halve in 18 months as a result.
There is no doubt confidence will continue to go down and our economy will grow slower than it should as long as the government continues its attacks on the oil and gas industry, farmers, and exporters.
The Government’s recent announcement to cap dairy herds is political grandstanding. We have already seen them blindside the oil and gas industry by drastically cutting exploration and now they’re doing the same to the dairy industry. There is no analysis, no consultation - they have no plan.
Environmental improvements are only achieved by governments working together with industry to improve how things are done. The National Government set very specific national limits on nitrates, phosphorous, E.coli, algae and ammonia through the National Policy Statements we put in place in 2014 and 2017. National’s actions put limits on diary conversions in sensitive catchments and is progressively being rolled out by regional councils. In 2017 we agreed with farmers a plan for 56,000km of fencing along waterways over 12 years to come into effect from December 2017 - which this new Government has failed to act on.
Farmers play a massive part in creating and investing in solutions to improve the way they operate. Unfortunately, it’s now clear this Ardern-Peters Government is out to punish them – in fact the Minister for Agriculture himself said this government is “no friend to the farmer”. The Government fails to realise how important food production is to our economy. However, our communities, whether rural or urban areas, understand we are all in this together.
Ahead of the budget Labour will continue their political attacks against the previous government. Yet, the reality is we made big investments every year into both health and education - last year alone we increased health spending by $880 million a year - the highest increase in eleven years.
Labour’s real problem is they promised too much. Now these huge spending promises to both voters and their coalition parties are coming home to roost. This Ardern-Peters Government is very fortunate we left the books in such great shape. But with their current raid on the regions, I am not confident that by 2020 the books will be looking as strong. And that means less money for your family, as well as the health and education services we all need.