31 May 2019

Budget: Govt 'building the blocks' for low income NZers - Robertson

8:50 am on 31 May 2019

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says the government is focused on helping low income NZers, but National says the slowing economy will affect everybody.

Grant Robertson and Amy Adams.

Grant Robertson and Amy Adams. Photo: RNZ

Mental health was the main focus of yesterday's 'wellbeing' Budget, with nearly $2 billion to be spent over five years. Other big spends include $1bn for KiwiRail, $80m boost for Whanau Ora, and about $500m to implement welfare changes.

The National Party said it was a "botched budget", and that many people would be asking how they benefited from it.

Speaking to Morning Report, National Party finance spokesperson Amy Adams said the economy had slowed down sharply and will make things tougher for New Zealanders.

"The economy is what pays for wellbeing, for schools, for roads, for teachers. If you lose sight of that, there's less money for the future," she said.

Watch Grant Robertson on Morning Report:

Moea Armstrong, who runs the Citizens Advice Bureau in Whangarei, said the Budget would help beneficiaries, but would not transform anyone's life.

She said achieving that goal required more radical measures, such as the 47 percent increase in benefits recommended in the recent welfare review.

A Whangarei family dependent on one person earning the minimum wage said there was virtually nothing in the Budget for them.

Sarah and Steve and their family of five were hoping the government would bring in a living wage, and extend the winter heating payment to low-income working families.

"There hasn't really been anything done for working class families," Sarah said.

But Mr Robertson told Morning Report that the government was "building the blocks" to help low-income Kiwis.

He said that's why the coalition opted for the families package over tax cuts, and the money in the budget for those on low-incomes, including beneficiaries, was the next step.

"We're bringing this in in phases, we've been upfront about that, and we are talking about $320m that will being going into those households because we've taken that decision to do indexation [of benefit levels]."

Mr Robertson said it was significant that the government had done what the Children's Commissioner said the would be the best thing that could be done which was the indexation of benefits.

Read more on the Budget:

Grant Robertson delivers his 2019 budget speech

Grant Robertson delivers his 2019 Budget to members of the house. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

Govt has made 'very bad choices' - Amy Adams

The National Party said that this year's Budget proves the government can not be trusted to manage the economy.

Watch National Party finance spokesperson Amy Adams on Morning Report:

National said more taxes, more debt and a slowing economy were all on the horizon.

Its finance spokesperson, Amy Adams, told Morning Report the economy had "slowed down sharply", from about 4 percent growth for the two years before the 2017 election, to 2.4 percent now.

"What we know is that it's a big big drop on where we've been.

"And that means billions of dollars less money on tax revenue to spend on things like wellbeing, it means our job market is contracting sharply, and it means ultimately that things are going to be tougher for New Zealand."

She said the budget yesterday showed the the amount of tax taken from New Zealanders, despite the slowing economy, was going up.

Ms Adams said if National was in power it would grow the economy so extra government revenue did not need to come from the pockets of New Zealanders.

It could also save money by looking at cutting "wasted spending" on things like the Provincial Growth Fund, the fees-free tertiary policy and KiwiBuild, she said.

"We think this government has made very bad choices with the money they do have," she said.

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