Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Budget day extra

Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The race to name the Budget seems to have been won by Vernon Small: it's 'The Yawn Budget'. There's many variations on this theme that have been announced today by various pundits and political players.

John Armstrong labels it A most forgettable (and dull) Budget, and uses words such as 'forgettable', 'dull', 'boring'. Bernard Hickey seems to call it 'The Steady-as-she-goes Budget'. Herald business editor Liam Dann (@liamdann) has tweeted that it's 'The Seinfeld Budget' i.e. 'A Show about Nothing'. Political strategist Mark Blackham (@mark_blackham) has tweeted to say that it's The "plain pack" Budget i.e. as with plan packing of cigarettes, 'No National branding, but we all know what's inside'.

Herald economist Brian Fallow provides the title of The housekeeper of all Budgets, complaining that it's 'Drab. And not much sign of a growth agenda'. In a second opinion piece, Bernard Hickey also emphasises what is missing from the Budget: here are no major moves to shift the economy or the budget onto a new track. There are tweaks around the edges of the tax system and the big spending departments, but nothing major that would change New Zealand's direction - see: Govt still dependent on "normal" rebound.

Labour-aligned blogger, Robert Winter explains why the Budget is so dull in Initial Thoughts on the Budget Debate. He says: 'English... delivered the dullest of budgets... in the dullest of tones, one assumes quite deliberately. It is a minimalist statement, designed to obscure the single-metric approach, the uncertainty of the government's predictions, and the cumulative effect of cuts. It is a clever political approach, a budget almost below the political radar'.

Audrey Young says it's 'a Budget with no dramatics', although the Drama may be yet to come depending on what happens in Greece. She points to the only real surprise in the Budget: 'the one will likely to be most unpopular is the freeze on early childhood subsidies. The 20-hours free remains but ditching inflation adjustments means that unless the providers absorb rising costs, fees to parents will increase'.

TVNZ's political editor, Corin Dann has labelled it A Budget of nips and tucks - drawing attention to the reshuffling instead of bold changes. He says that 'Today's Budget may not be the dreaded slash and burn Budget some had feared but it is certainly one that slices and dices and has plenty of nips and tucks'.

Tracy Watkins also says that 'it's more of the same' in the Budget. However she claims that we've been mislead, as the Budget is Hardly a crackdown on the rich that Bill English appeared to be suggesting yesterday. Instead, it's more of a crackdown on the poor: 'smokers take the biggest hit, and even children are not spared - they face what is essentially a new tax on their earnings, with only limited exemptions for cash in hand baby sitting and lawn mowing jobs'. Furthermore, 'by no longer adjusting early childcare subsidies for inflation' more costs are 'shifted onto working mums and dads over time'. Electorally, Watkins says 'it's a nickel and dime budget which will spark howls of outrage from smokers but few others'.

The Dominion Post says Budget is not brave. While giving some credit to Bill English for a 'sensible' Budget in 'uncertain times', 'Unfortunately, New Zealand needed a brave Budget, not one that tinkers around the edges'.

Economic journalist Tim Hunter says 'It was billed as a Zero Budget, and that's what we got', and explains that 'in the current climate there is little room for manoeuvre without going for something big like a capital gains tax' - see: Zero budget matches the billing.

John Hartevelt asks, Does anyone else have a bit of a sinking feeling?. He says that families are going to be worse off as a result of this Budget, coming on the back of previous austere budgets: 'the screws have continued to be tightened in successive Budgets'.

All in all, a bland budget that goes by many names, but which will certainly produce many yawns.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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