Budget sets tone for future

Finance Minister Grant Robertson presents his first Budget. Photo: Getty Images
Finance Minister Grant Robertson presents his first Budget. Photo: Getty Images
The Government has set the tone in Budget 2018 for what it expects to be more than one term in Government.

Health, education, housing and other critical public services receive the most attention from Finance Minister Grant Robertson in his first Budget.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is focusing on better lives for children in her first major policy announcement. Improving living standards for children is close to her heart.

As a point to note, the last Budget presented by a Labour finance minister was from Sir Michael Cullen, a former Dunedin MP.

Mr Robertson grew up and studied in Dunedin and has looked to Sir Michael as an example of how social ideals can be included in a financial document. Health Minister and Associate Finance Minister David Clark, also the MP for Dunedin North, has had a strong influence in the Budget - perhaps indicating strong values of community care will continue for the next few years.

National increased funding each year on things like health and education and justice, but not to the extent Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens expected.

Mr Robertson and Ms Ardern were carefully talking about well-being and rebuilding, reminding voters of overdue investments they are starting to make this term.

The Labour-led Government produced a mini-Budget last year, meeting some of its first 100 days' promises.

As is the way, much of Budget 2018 was already announced before yesterday, leaving the main messages to become focused in the minds of people wanting a snapshot view of what they may or may not get.

It is important for the Government to have Kiwis look at its document in a holistic way. Too often, New Zealanders have been guilty of focusing on their own needs, rather than those of the wider community.

The Government has been the beneficiary of a strong economy left to it by National, of that there can be no dispute.

While there can be arguments about which government has its priorities in the right place, New Zealand is looking strong going into the future.

Mr Robertson has more money to allocate, and he will use that to strengthen the communities Labour needs for support.

There is always criticism, but as is now the case with Budget responses, most of the critics are finding minor points of difference.

New Zealanders will still wonder about the four pillars of the wellbeing Budget Mr Robertson has produced. He is likely to use the next few weeks to push home his vision.

If he can, Mr Robertson should nurture the surpluses he is forecasting, resisting the pressure which will come as the year progresses.

The Australian Budget last week was deemed ``the rivers of gold''. Judging by the documents released yesterday, New Zealand is looking in a similar strong position.

Unemployment is set to fall, employment is set to grow. However, there needs to be clearer signals around work visas and immigration as the three parties of the Government have all earlier expressed a desire to cut immigration.

In an interesting move, Mr Robertson almost buried the good financial news down in his speech, instead focusing on the wellbeing aspects of his announcements.

Globally, New Zealand is the envy of many. National had to deal with earthquake-related costs. Some of those have been inherited by this Government. Global shocks, such as trade wars, need to be in the backs of the minds of ministers calling for more spending.

Having a track of increased surpluses presents the Government with more options than some others around the world.

Nothing can be taken for granted, but by adhering to his own Budget Responsibility Rules, and adopting a different debt reduction track, Mr Robertson has the chance now to prove a Labour finance minister is not only borrow and spend.



Now, Guyon Espiner has called it 'neo liberal'.