2 Jun 2024

Budget Day: A Photo Essay

From The House , 7:30 am on 2 June 2024

The Sunday radio feature from The House surveyed the party leaders' speeches in the Budget Debate - the facts and attacks, the stories, the pantomime and proclamations. You can listen to that audio at the link below.

But rather than a written version of the radio show, here is a photo essay of Budget Day at Parliament. 

Thousands attended the Budget Day hīkoi protest in Wellington which ended up at Parliament.

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Inside Parliament it's an unusually quiet day. The parliamentary press gallery (political journalists) are all 'locked away' being briefed on the numbers before the Budget announcement. But just outside there is a huge Budget Day hīkoi protest initiated by Te Pāti Māori, against government policies affecting Māori.

Photographers and (above) political and parliamentary staff wait for the Minister of Finance to arrive across 'the bridge' for the budget.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

As 2pm nears, the government's main players cross the bridge from the Executive Wing (the Beehive) to Parliament House. Staking out that arrival are a few press photographers and, above them, staffers (mostly from the governing side) who ring the lower atria for a view. 

Chamber and House staffers wait with copies of budget documents to Table once they are introduced.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Inside the debating chamber, before the minister of finance can give the Budget Statement, the Budget documents need to be tabled, including the volumes of appropriations estimates that are details of the Budget. The introduction of the documents is made by Nicola Willis, but it is House and chamber staff who must lug and organise the piles of tomes on the table. 

Nicola Willis hands the Speaker a copy of the 2024 Budget Statement.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Each party leader and the speaker each get copies of the Budget Statement about to be read. This year, the on-duty Hansard reporter and the clerk of the House of Representatives missed out on copies for some reason. 

Nicola Willis delivers the 2024 Budget Statement

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

"For the first time in 14 years, hard-working New Zealanders will get to keep more of their own money through our government's tax relief." – Nicola Willis

Cue 42 minutes of almost uninterrupted speechifying. That's got to be tiring. Ministers of finance seldom make mistakes despite all the taxing detail, so I presume there's a fair bit of practice beforehand.

Nicola Willis delivers the 2024 Budget Statement - as seen from the Press Gallery.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

The debating chamber seen from the press gallery. Few journalists are in physical attendance. They've been locked away since morning tea, being briefed and pre-writing embargoed content. Now most are downstairs in their offices creating an avalanche of content, coverage, and commentary. The public turnout is also noticeably poor and possibly affected by the protest outside. 

By the way, that glorious glass roof topping the chamber's multi-layered wedding cake is false. It’s a glass ceiling with lights above. The actual chamber roof is much more prosaic. The huge white tubes hanging between the lights are massive multidirectional speakers. 

Leader of the Opposition, Chris Hipkins, during the Budget Debate 2024.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

"Ten billion dollars' worth of tax cuts; $12 billion worth of borrowing. You don't need an abacus to figure out that this is a government borrowing to pay for tax cuts." – Chris Hipkins

Once the Budget Statement is finished, the Budget debate begins with the leader of the opposition. Traditionally, they open with a motion of no-confidence in the government. Every leader gets 20 minutes - that's a lot of speech to write with only an hour of advance warning (for the opposition) of what's in the Budget.

Leader of the Opposition, Chris Hipkins, is applauded by his team after leading off the Budget Debate.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

The Labour caucus stands to applaud their leader Chris Hipkins at the end of his speech. I've included this shot because it reminds me vaguely of a renaissance painting. Imagine ranks of wise men and flights of angels hovering around a baby Jesus. 

The Prime Minister, Christopher Luxon, in the Budget Debate.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

"This is great news. It's great news for the squeezed middle, those low- and middle-income working families - the folk that Labour purported to care about, but don't anymore." – Christopher Luxon.

Next up, the prime minister. Here, Christopher Luxon is focused on the opposition across the chamber, but he spent a lot of his speech talking to his own caucus. Who doesn't like a receptive crowd?

New Zealand First Deputy Leader Shane Jones possesses a formidable voice, and regularly interjects in the debating chamber with what are best described as explosive bellows.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

There is also the less receptive audience. New Zealand First deputy leader Shane Jones has the stentorian voice of a circus ringmaster, and regularly bellows across the chamber. His frequent interjections are almost more felt than heard. "Dig it up!" "Star Chamber!" "Irrelevant!" "Democracy!"

Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson in an animated Budget Debate speech.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

"The government has chosen to preserve poverty and remain a not-so-innocent bystander to the unfolding climate crisis with an incredibly unambitious Budget for Aotearoa." – Marama Davidson.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson does the debating duties for the Greens. 

Photos can catch inaccurate but fun moments. ACT leader David Seymour is actually counting off his debating points, not gesticulating in the direction of his bench-mate, National's Louise Upston.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

“I know you're not supposed to speak this way—it sounds a bit Venezuelan—but I think that people who voted for ACT got a fantastic value for money. It's actually free to vote for us, and we've already saved you hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. Is that a good deal or what?” – David Seymour

ACT Party leader David Seymour is next. This photo catches an inaccurate but fun moment. Seymour is actually counting off debating points, not gesticulating in the direction of his bench-mate, National's Louise Upston.

New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters speaking in the Budget Debate.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

"We speak English in this country - a language that came from a small village in Germany all those centuries ago." – Winston Peters.

Luxon reacts as Peters counterattacks an interjection from Green MP Scott Willis.

Te Pāti Māori MP, Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke speaking in the Budget Debate.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

"I find it very interesting that one person in this Parliament is so triggered - so triggered - by me, so intimidated by me! Not once did I mention, not once did I say anything over here. I sat. So, if we want to go there, let's go there." - Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke.

Te Pāti Māori MP Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke has sat quietly while Peters attacks her, but she is up next and gets to counter. She does.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader, Rawiri Waititi speaking in the Budget Debate, 2024.

Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

"Today, we made a declaration in the name of our mokopuna that we would no longer allow the assumption of this Parliament to have superiority or sovereignty over te iwi Māori... I challenge you to be patient while te iwi Māori organises itself and upholds our part of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, because we've honoured kāwanatanga, but we've allowed you to assume that you have mana over us, and you do not." - Rawiri Waititi.

Te Pāti Māori split their time between two MPs, so co-leader Rawiri Waititi speaks as well. He spends time outlining the difference between kāwanatanga and rangatiratanga and what he sees as the proper interpretation of the Treaty relationship between Māori, Parliament and government.