Barry Soper: Budget won't provide answers for homeless

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There are some decisions that politicians live to regret.

That was certainly the case for David Lange 30 years ago when he cut short his attendance at a Pacific Island Forum meeting in Fiji and rushed home to deal with a crisis. That was all we were told as Lange raced back to Wellington.

The crisis involved his then Finance Minister Roger Douglas. Since coming to office two years earlier the pair were inseparable.

Lange had got word in Suva that Douglas had offered his resignation because the secrecy surrounding his upcoming Budget had been breached. Parts of it had been leaked to a newspaper and Douglas did what no minister has done since - accepted full responsibility.

Investigation into the leak established the Rogergnome had nothing to do with it and Lange refused to accept his resignation, a decision he came to regret.

The following year Lange got cold feet when, after the share market crashed, Douglas pushed for more radical economic reform - like a flat tax and more asset sales. The rest, including the Labour government, was history.

These days the Budget's an open secret. In the lead up to this Thursday's tome, the Beehive's been busy announcing pre-Budget measures that tally up to almost a billion dollars, although admittedly spread over four to five years.

The Dipton drawler Bill English will announce them all over again when he takes centre stage in Parliament's bear pit. On top of that, he'll more than likely spend another billion on the hardy annuals that voraciously gobble up the taxpayer dollar - like health, education and welfare.

READ MORE: Heat on Govt to move on housing woes

English will be wanting to counter the image being painted by the Government's opponents that it doesn't care for those who've been left behind, like those families who're forced to live in cars.

It's the sort of image highlighted by cartoonist Tom Scott who penned the Housing Minister Nick Smith standing beside a car where a family had bedded down for the night and pronouncing: "Under Labour, homeless people slept in cars that would not have got a warrant. This beauty has air bags, reversing camera and traction control!"

Humour aside, living in a car is no joke, but it's not a new phenomenon.

But with a record net migration gain of more than 68,000 in the year ending April, it's a problem that looks set to get worse before it gets better and this week's Budget unfortunately won't provide the answers.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZME.

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