Protesters held back as PM gives speech

There is a strong police presence holding back protesters at the Langham Hotel in Auckland where Prime Minister John Key is giving his post-Budget speech to a business audience.

Among the 100 or so protesters is former Green MP Sue Bradford and her husband Bill Bradford. The placards are protesting against austerity.

"Our austerity is their prosperity,'' reads one.

Mr Key told members of the Trans Tasman Business Circle that the Budget was "a very sensible Budget for very volatile times''.

If he had been asked a month ago if there had been a chance that Greece would exit the Euro, he said he would have dismissed it and thought commonsense would prevail.

"Now I'm far more uncertain. That uncertainty and volatility simply reinforces the Government's approach in this Budget and over all our Budgets.''

He acknowledged that the surplus to be posted in 2014-15 was not the world's biggest but it was still an important milestone.

"For the first time in a number of years, the Government will be raising enough revenue to meet its commitments without having to increase debt. And from that time on, we can begin to get our existing stock of debt down to more prudent levels.''

He said the last Labour Government increased new spending by a cumulative $20 billion in its last four Budgets whereas National had added a net $700 million in new spending in its four Budgets.

Referring to the protesters, some of whom were students, Mr Key later told reporters that people needed to be realistic.

"These are really challenging times for New Zealand ... and if we don't take a responsible approach and continue to spend money we don't have the long term implications are very significant and particularly for students. They are fundamentally the generation that would have to repay that debt.''

- Audrey Young of the New Zealand Herald

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