Science will be 'at the heart' of the budget - PM

The Prime Minister says the 2010 Budget will have a strong focus on science, innovation and technology. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Prime Minister says the 2010 Budget will have a strong focus on science, innovation and technology. Photo / Mark Mitchell

There will be a strong focus on science, innovation and technology in next week's budget, Prime Minister John Key says.

He told a National Party regional conference in Masterton today New Zealand companies had time and time again proved themselves to be world beaters.

"The challenge for us is to get more of our firms using science, research and technology to deliver more valuable products and services," he told delegates.

"That will translate through to better paid jobs for New Zealanders. You can expect to see science at the heart of what we do in the budget a few days from now. We have made this area a priority for new spending."

Mr Key promised the budget would deliver a set of government accounts that would make much better reading than those inherited from the previous Labour government.

"Not long after we took government, forecasts showed that left unchecked, net debt would soar to just over 50 per cent of GDP by 2023, and it would keep on rising forever," he said.

"In last year's budget we managed to pull that figure back to peak at 35.9 per cent, and while I can't tell you what the figure will be in this month's budget, I can say that there will be further improvement."

Mr Key said ministers had been told to find and fix the blockages there were holding up growth in their portfolios, and listed aquaculture as one area where bottlenecks were being removed.

He also cited "responsible mining" as a way of creating jobs and helping economic growth, although he acknowledged there was opposition to mining schedule four conservation land.

The Government's proposals have raised intense debate, with 40,000 people marching in Auckland to oppose it.

Mr Key said the debate around it had been "emotional" but the Government was listening to the opinions that were being expressed.

"Proposals like this one are never easy - but neither is the alternative," he said.

"If we want a faster growing economy and better paid jobs for Kiwi families, we have to do something to make it happen."

He said the submissions that had been received on the consultation document would be examined and the Government would take "a fair and balanced" approach.

Key also signalled that legislation to replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act would be a challenge for the party.

"There will always be extremists in the debate who falsely characterise things in a way that may even frighten you," he said.

"I want to lead us down a path where these issues are settled, and we can all look to move forward together."

Mr Key listed the Government's achievements since taking office and said the first budget had been presented against the background of a severe global recession.

"New Zealand has emerged from this recession more quickly and in stronger shape than most of our trading partners," he said.

"But the need for strong economic leadership is no less than it was a year ago."

Mr Key did not mention the emissions trading scheme during his speech, another problem area for the Government since Australia shelved its own scheme at least until 2013.

It is reported to have been one of the main talking points at the conference, with delegates questioning why New Zealand is going ahead with its scheme, due to start on July 1, while its main trade competitor is holding off.

Finance Minister Bill English told the conference yesterday there were times when governments had to make hard calls which weren't popular.

"Over the next period, as you start thinking about the next election, the Government is going to be involved with some decisions that you don't like, some decisions you may disagree with," the Sunday Star Times quoted him as saying.

- NZPA

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