18 May 2023

Political opponents take aim at Budget 2023: 'Blowout', 'broke', 'Budget for the rich'

6:30 pm on 18 May 2023
Dollar symbol with Grant Robertson and Christopher Luxon in background

Photo: RNZ

National and ACT are warning of massive overspending by the government, while the Greens and Te Pāti Māori are saying more spending was needed.

'Blowout Budget' - National

National is deriding the government's Budget, saying while Labour talked up no frills and bread-and-butter it has delivered a spending spree with a massive increase in deficits and debt.

He told reporters it should have had inflation-adjustments for taxes, and he was attracted to the gaming subsidy but would need to see the evidence. He would rather see tax cuts than the public transport subsidies.

Finance Spokesperson Nicola Willis said anyone who had a child would know that "20 hours 'free' is anything but free", and the free prescriptions was just the government paying twice because some were already offering free prescriptions. She also noted the free school lunches were only out funded to 2024.

Speaking in the debating chamber, Leader Christopher Luxon said it was just another example of the government gaslighting the country.

"That speech and this Budget is just another example of this government gaslighting the country, because Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson are trying to tell Kiwis they're doing a splendid job managing the economy and everything is just fine and being well managed.

"New Zealanders know it's not fine, I can tell you I know it's not fine, and deep down Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson know it's not fine either."

The Leader of the Opposition, Chris Luxon, speaks on the Government's Budget 2023.

The Leader of the Opposition, Chris Luxon, speaks on the Government's Budget 2023. Photo: VNP / Johnny Blades

He said the Budget would not change the situation for New Zealanders who were struggling with the cost of living.

"This was presented as the no-frills Budget, but what we've got today is the blowout Budget because what we've seen is a continued addiction to spending - spending up to $137b, almost doubled since this government came to power.

"We see a huge growth in debt to $97b by 2026, we are seeing massive Budget deficits up $7.1b larger this year, and the implication of all of that is that we actually have Treasury ... saying interest rates are going to remain higher for longer.

"The prime minister talks about bread and butter a lot but bread is actually up 39 percent under Labour."

The Budget had no ideas for getting New Zealand out of an economic hole, tackling the underlying causes, or stopping New Zealanders go overseas, he said.

"It's just spend more and expect Kiwis to pay for it, that's what it is, that's what we've come to expect but I'm not surprised, we've had a change of prime minister - he's tried to adopt some new language and some new words but the reality of it is just the same old Labour government."

He returned to his frequent refrain that Robertson was addicted to spending.

"Every Budget he stands up and promises he's going to deliver it this time ... but every time he blows it out, and that's because he's addicted to spending and he's an addict, and as a result he doesn't want to admit that he's got a problem, and the sad thing is that the new prime minister - his new boss - isn't tough enough to tell him 'hey sunshine, we need to make an intervention here'."

He said it meant inflation would remain higher for longer.

Hipkins targets lack of 'plans and vision' from National

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins fired back at Luxon in the House, saying Budget Day was a day for details, plans and vision - and "we just heard none of those things from the leader of the opposition.

"The biggest blowout that we have seen today is the release of hot air from the leader of opposition ... it is no wonder his own colleagues have started to refer to him as Captain cliche.

Photo: Phil Smith

"Because after three years to come up with a credible plan for what National would do for New Zealanders we heard nothing today from the leader of the opposition about what a National government would stand for."

He said it was a great Budget for Kiwi families and New Zealanders knew they could trust the government to have their backs.

"It is a proudly Labour Budget about making targeted and affordable investments in the cost of living, in providing relief for New Zealanders ... it is also about making sure that the future can be better.

"We don't call them bottom-feeders on this side of the House ... we call them Kiwi workers and they deserve a government that's got their backs."

'Build Back Broke' Budget - ACT

ACT leader David Seymour told reporters there was almost nothing to like in the Budget, and while the free prescriptions had "probably been overdue for a long time" they should have been targeted to those with a community services card.

Labour had also missed a trick not putting more money into funding pharmaceuticals, he said.

He said the infrastructure funding was something ACT had long committed to, so he did not disagree with that, but "what is different is this is a blowout Budget".

"Incontinence is where you just have no control of things squirting out and when it comes to government spending that describes Grant Robertson unfortunately. He is fiscally incontinent."

It would mean increased interest rates and inflation, and there was not enough focus on crime - again calling for ankle bracelets for young offenders. He also cast doubt on the Treasury's forecasts.

In the House, he said the Budget showed Labour was more interested in helping corporates than New Zealanders doing it tough.

"This is a reckless, irresponsible blowout budget with $7.5 billion worth of deficit spending next year that will put all of this government's attempts to help with the cost of living in the shade.

Photo: Phil Smith

"Adrian Orr will have been saying things in his office at the Reserve Bank that I'm not allowed to say in this House when he realised how irresponsible Grant Robertson is with his spending.

"The Labour Party likes to say 'why can't everyone just be positive, we're doing our best, it's a good job' - well maybe [Hipkins] should have a look at what New Zealanders are saying."

He pointed to a recent Taxpayers Union-Curia poll showing about two thirds of New Zealanders felt the country was going in the wrong direction.

"That is why October 14 is judgement day and October 15 is retirement day for all those Labour backbenchers."

He said Robertson was running out of excuses.

"Grant Robertson blamed Covid, well I'm sorry, it's officially over, the world moved on over a year ago now. Then he blamed Vladimir Putin - and I can understand that as a political tactic becuase he's an extremely bad man - but the facts are the oil price is now lower than it was when Putin started his war.

"Then, perhaps most shamefully, he tried to use the victims of the floods and cyclones as a excuse for his endless addiction to spending other people's money. Well I'm sorry but in this Budget there's $7b of borrowing and only $1b of extra spending for the cyclone and the floods.

"He's no Caesar, what they will write is he came, he borrowed, he bankrupted all of us, that's what Grant Robertson will be remembered for."

'We absolutely need so much more' - Greens

Green co-leader Marama Davidson in the House, she said the Budget included some important steps that would make a difference to people's lives, hailing it as picking up long-standing Green Party policies.

"Nine years ago we promised to extend the 20-hours ECE subsidy for two year olds and this has happened. Greens have campaigned for 10 years to deliver more affordable public transport and now in govenrment this is a reality. Yay.

"Warmer Kiwi homes is also a longstanding Green commitment that dates back to 2009 ... the key message from this Budget is that if Labour wants to keep working with us we have plenty more ideas we can share."

She also praised $1.4b targeted towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

"But we absolutely need so much more."

She pointed towards news the world would likely see 1.5C of warming within the next five years.

"Every single tonne of climate pollution that is stopped matters. We are in a climate emergency and it is time for everyone to act like it."

Speaking to reporters afterwards, co-leader James Shaw said it showed more Green MPs were needed around the Cabinet table.

"It doesn't go as far or as fast as we would like it. We're making the case quite strongly that actually we do have the resources we need in this country to actually solve some of these big challenges that we're facing and that an incrementalist approach actually holds some of those problems in place. That is a political choice."

Davidson agreed.

"We need to change the tax rules and the Budget rules so that we have more to put towards the things that really matter. There are people here that have more than enough and they're able to contribute more but politicians have to make those rules and change those rules.

"We don't have to trade off good things for good things, we can actually prioritise all of the important things."

A 'sherrif of Nottingham' Budget for the Rich - Te Pāti Māori

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi said after three years of so-called Wellbeing Budgets, "the wellbeing of our people here in Aotearoa couldn't be worse off".

He said tangata whenua had been relegated to paupers on their own whenua, and it was only getting worse, reinforced by the other parties in Parliament.

The Budget was essentially borrowing from the poor, to give to the rich, he said - a "sherrif of Nottingham budget".

"It's not until the wealthy are struggling to maintain their lifestyles that this house suddenly deems we have a cost-of-living crisis."

He called for a wealth tax, saying what was delivered to New Zealanders was not enough and would never be until governments met their obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

He did however claim the extra $18m for Te Matatini as a win for Te Pāti Māori, citing the $19m allocation set out in the party's manifesto.

"But we must ask, what happens after two years? Why isn't this baseline annual funding?"

He said the government's Budgets each year aimed to intentionally "bamboozle" New Zealanders, and led Māori to believe they were climbing up the ladder when in reality inequity was growing.

"Us natives are expected time and time again to be grateful, to smile and nod for the hands that feed us, for the extra crumbs we receive. The narrative we will no longer accept, nor will we tolerate.

"Today this government offers 0.47 percent of the entire Budget and you want us to be grateful."

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi highlights the extra funding for Te Matatini Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said afterwards the party was critical of the Budget because the focus was on middle-to-rich voters and failed to address long-term poverty.

"We don't want to take away from the fact that there's been some really great advocacy fromn those in Whānau Ora, from those in our Matariki kaupapa and those particularly in our Matatini kaupapa.

"Capital gains tax, GST off food, all these things will actually bring about more money into our economy, immediately rectify and address long-term povery. We need to stay focused because we're clearly having influence on Labour, and we need to I guess think from whatever position we have that we continue to have influence on whoever the government is."

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