18 May 2018

Budget 'breaks trust' on promises to voters - National

1:00 pm on 18 May 2018

The National opposition says the government has broken trust with New Zealand and not met its promises to voters with its first Budget.

National MP Amy Adams announces she will stand for National Party leader.

The Labour government's Budget is under fire from the National Party's finance spokesperson Amy Adams, who says the government has broken pre-election promises. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Finance Minister Grant Robertson yesterday announced more investment in health, education and housing, while also forecasting a more than $3 billion surplus.

But National Party finance spokesperson Amy Adams told Morning Report that the government failed in their commitment to pre-election promises.

"We know that New Zealanders are paying $2.4 billion more in taxes now than they were before this government and that's, we would say, contrary to the promise they made," Ms Adams said.

"Their numbers from pre-election [show] they clearly had no concept of what it cost to be government … they had no idea of the cost of their promises.

"They're not meeting their promises, so they campaigned they got elected, they earned the right to be government by going out and saying to New Zealand 'this is what we would do if we're elected' now they have to be held accountable to what they said.

"This is money that's come out of the pockets of hard-working Kiwis there's an obligation to spend it well."

Another area which Ms Adams said the Budget showed the Labour government's shortcomings was that they had less new money for core public services than National did, and that Labour failed to address claims of a funding crisis.

"What we would argue is with all that spending, with all that cash washing around, they're breaking trust with New Zealand," Ms Adams said.

"They're not doing a transformative spend and addressing some sort of funding shortfall that they insisted was there, they're actually putting less new money in some core areas," she said.

"During the campaign they were very clear with middle New Zealand, [saying] 'We can't afford to give you that $1000 tax back that National promised you because we need it for this funding crisis'.

"Yet come the budget, what gets funded; embassy in Sweden, foreign affairs, Shane Jones' $1 billion-a-year slush fund and yet there's a $200 million cut in Pharmac. There's not enough money to pay for children's health camps, there's not enough money to pay cheaper GP fees that they promised … and they're spending less new money proportionally than National spent."

However, core government spending in the current Budget showed it was 6.1 percent against 3.1 as the average over the past five National budgets.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson told Morning Report the National Party was "playing with numbers" and Ms Adams' claims that the previous government put more new money into core services was not true.

He said the government could not make up for the last nine years of under-investment in one Budget.

"If you're making an apples with apples comparison with health spending, we've spent $3.2bn in this budget, National allocated about $2.3bn," he said.

Mr Robertson said it was the first universal increase for early childhood education services in a decade, and extra funding for special needs would help relieve pressures on schools' operational budgets.

He also defended the $1bn in funding for MFAT, saying that New Zealand - as an export nation - needed capability for overseas trade agreements.

"We've got to do both sides of things here, we've got to generate prosperity and then share it more fairly."

He dismissed the criticism of the Budget as a "missed opportunity".

"I think it's important people see this Budget alongside the families package we released," he said.

"We're laying the foundations ... we can't make up for the last nine years in one budget.

"What we can do is put in place the funding that's been missing in health, housing and education."

Commentators on Morning Report compared Labour's Budget to an ideal National one if they had been elected, but Ms Adams said there was clear difference in how the parties measured their outcomes.

"The difference between us is that we didn't just measure ourselves on how much money we could spend; we measured ourselves on 'are New Zealanders getting better outcomes?'

Ms Adams said the Labour government's plan for migrants was also detrimental to the growth of the business sector.

"Spending is the easy part of governing. First of all you've got to have a strong economy and business confidence tells us they're wrecking this economy, and over the long term we'll see that drop.

"The number one constraint on growth that businesses talk about is access to skilled labour and if the Labour government put a hold on that, as they said they will, that's going to squeeze the business sector even further."

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