16 May 2018

The finance minister's budget diary

From The House , 3:16 pm on 16 May 2018

This Thursday is Budget day or as I’ve dubbed it, Minister for Finance Grant Robertson’s B-Day.

It’s the big reveal of how the Government is going to spend (taxpayer) money for the next financial year: 1 July 2018 - 30 June 2019.

And like your attention seeking-friend who needs a whole week to celebrate their birthday (we all know one), most of this week will be about the Budget as well. Also next week. Actually, quite a few weeks after. Sorry.

But what is this Budget day/week/month you ask? To help you out, here’s a made-up diary of the Minister for Finance which is in no way endorsed by, or representative of, the Minister for Finance's thoughts.

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Birthday money is always welcome but hopefully there's more than $25 in the Budget. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox


Check over early budget announcements we’ve made on foreign aid, family violence services, homelessness, pest control and net capital spend*  to see what's left to say on Thursday. Maybe share a few more tidbits in speeches here and there to keep ‘em keen. Three more sleeps. 

*capital spending includes investment in long-lived assets such as buildings and infrastructure.


Do the time-honoured photo-opp at the Petone printing press to sniff the fresh ink on the newly printed budget. It’s a government budget (all that endless negotiating with NZ First and Greens), but check that it has Labour’s red on the cover. Hold up the front page and smile for a photo. Don’t give much away though. Two more sleeps.

Who held it better? Finance Minister Grant Robertson with Budget 2018 (right) and former Finance Minister Steven Joyce with Budget 2017 (left).

  Who held it better? Photo: RNZ


Decide what tie to wear. Have had a lot of questions about my tie, apparently it’s a finance minister thing. Bright tie = bold budget, subdued tie =  dignified budget. Maybe practice speech with different ties to make sure it goes with my budget.

Dodge any questions from the Opposition trying to trick me into revealing secrets in Question Time. Try not to lose voice.

One more sleep. (If I can sleep at all.)



Should I eat a pie? No, that was Bill’s thing. Definitely wearing a cool tie though.

Bill English and his post-Budget pie.

Bill English and his post-Budget pie. Photo: Twitter / Bill English

10am: Head to the Beehive Banquet Hall for my B-Day morning tea.

So nice of all those journalists to celebrate with me. What do you mean they’re being locked up in there with analysts and economists? For FOUR hours?!  And you’re taking away their phones? Well at least I’ll have a captive audience to talk to about my budget. Oh, all they want to know is where the sausage rolls are?

Fine, still going to talk to them about my budget but probably best to wait till after they snack. There are rumours of a protest if the meat-logs in flaky pastry aren’t on offer.

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Photo: Twitter

2pm: Release the journos. Hope they’re filled with enough sausage rolls to file nice stories about my budget. Check tie is sending the right message and make my way to the House to give my speech.

2:05pm: Say some official words like “I move that the Appropriations (2018/19 Estimates) Bill (basically a fancy name for the budget) be read a first time with no debate”. That’s right. No debate. Not having question time today either.

Hand out freshly printed copies of my speech to all the leaders of the other parties. Friendly smile, firm handshake. Show ‘em who’s boss. Should I take two copies for the Greens or let them fight for it?

2:10pm: Alright, speech time. Technically the second reading of this bill. Because it’s my B-Day I’ve got as long as I want to talk but will probably keep it to about 40 minutes. Should I mention:

  • Economic growth - ability to produce more goods and services.

  • Government plan - still early days, so remind people we have lots planned yet,  compared to Steven focussing on stability in the budget 2017 speech.

  • The books - Government accounts.

  • Surplus - mo’ money in than out (woo)

  • Deficit - mo’ money out than in (boo)

  • GDP - gross domestic product or New Zealand’s total economic output

  • Millions and billions of dollars- numbers with a lot of zeros after them.Remember to pause for applause after the big dollar numbers for things like health and housing.

  • Treasury - the Government’s lead economic and financial adviser.

  • Fiscal - relating to government income, especially taxes but government also gets money from levies, fees, investments and the sale of goods and services (GST).

  • Mention the ministers, public servants and other officials who worked for months and months on this budget.  

  • Budget responsibility rules - the guidelines we set for ourselves like spending wisely and reducing debt.

2:50pm: End speech. Graciously lap up applause. Wait for the other leaders and MPs to try and top my performance in this order:

  • The Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges: 20 min

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: 20 min

  • Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters: 20 min

  • Green Party Leader James Shaw and/or Marama Davidson: 20 min

  • ACT Party Leader David Seymour: 10 min

  • Other MPs 10 min each

Settle in for the 15 hours of debate (spread over the coming weeks).

Apparently I have to shout drinks tonight. No more sleeps - will really need sleep.