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Chris Ford: The 2013 Budget - The devil is in the detail

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

 Yesterday, the media trumpeted the Government's 2013 Budget as the first light at the end of the tunnel.

Our corporate media have over the last 24 hours engaged in a big-time, pro-National love fest. One example is today's Otago Daily Times which carried the headline "It's a win for the South." The article could have been more appropriately headlined "Hey Otagoites - vote National in 2014!" At least that would have been a more honest headline.

After all, National has clearly aimed its Budget at wavering, middle-ground voters who were, until recently, starting to have second thoughts about the party.

But what these centre-ground voters don't realise is that the Government is about to do the following to them:

  • A Bill to increase fuel excise charges will be debated in Parliament under urgency this weekend.
  • Cut student allowance eligibility for mature and returning students.
  • Additional money for ACT's Charter Schools plan which will mean less money for state sector secondary schools.
  • Cuts to police spending.

And for those who don't vote National and are that party's favourite populist whipping boys (i.e. the poor and disadvantaged), there was some good news in the form of repayable whiteware loans and more home insulation assistance. However, the other news for this group was largely bleak in that Government:

  • Will evict up to 3000 state house tenants from their homes within the next three years (some that have been lived in for a lifetime).
  • Begin the gradual privatisation of our state housing stock through nice sounding arrangements with voluntary sector providers.
  • Grant funding to a 'specialist working group' to develop UK-style work assessment testing for sick and disabled people which could see thousands of people potentially impoverished.
  • Compared to earlier signalled hopes, the Government will do very little to address child poverty and hunger.

Besides, the Government is today pushing through legislation (under urgency) to introduce payments for family/whanau members involved in the ongoing support of disabled people. Initially, the $92 million was seen to be a first step but now, as with much of yesterday's Budget, the devil has been found in the detail. What it comes down to is that the payments will be restricted to only 1000 family carers who will need to endure an assessment to establish their eligibility. Actually, as the Atkinson Court Case elaborated, nearly 4500 families of high needs adult disabled people are potentially eligible but just won't be considered at all! Adding more salt to the wound is that the payments will be set at the level of the minimum wage - $13.75 an hour! What an insult to family members who provide support to their disabled family members. As a disabled person myself, I find that this is just one more way in which support for disabled and older people is not fully valued.

I expect, though, that National will get some boost in the polls from this Budget. The average middle-ground voter will, on the surface, like the fact that budget surpluses will be run, that they will be able to get access to more affordable housing (even if that comes at a terrible price later on) and will be taken in by the Government's headline spending on new schools and hospitals - not that that is bad at all but when these new assets are being financed by the selling off of more valuable ones, then that's just wrong!

I will give points to the Nats for wanting to blunt the Opposition's charge that they aren't socially responsible. However, people like me on the Left can see through the Tories as they like to hide pernicious and nasty things in the detail (just like they did with class size increases in 2012)! Sadly, in this regard, they have done so again in 2012! So enjoy your petrol tax increases, having to fundraise more for your schools, and inability to access further education and training New Zealand!




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