Grant Robertson: Budget defined by what is missing

This Budget will not be defined by what is in it but by what is missing. The housing crisis - both in affordability and the flow-on to homelessness - simply has not been adequately addressed.

You can bet Bill English's bottom dollar that in the lead up to next year's Budget the Herald will be running stories about skyrocketing house prices, locked out first home buyers and people living in cars and garages because they can't afford the rent for proper accommodation.

It is astonishing that nothing has been introduced to tackle demand in the housing market and that there's nothing for first home buyers locked out of the Kiwi dream of home ownership.

On supply it's a reheat of last year's failed attempt to free up Crown land in Auckland. Nick Smith only found twelve hectares with $50m. An extra $100m won't make much difference at all given his rate of progress. Labour has a comprehensive plan for housing, including Kiwibuild, to build thousands of affordable homes, and will crack down on speculators, here and offshore.

Bill English's Budget will keep the Reserve Bank Governor awake at night - Graeme Wheeler is a man who knows we need to tackle the structural challenges facing the economy of a housing crisis, over-reliance on the dairy industry, struggling regions and creaking infrastructure.

The failure to tackle demand for housing or seriously add supply won't fix the housing crisis and its threat to financial stability. The forecasts for the dairy sector are dire and will see farmers facing misery through to 2018.

Yesterday we got nothing more than a sticking plaster on a compound fracture.

With the economy struggling to keep up with population growth, the insignificant announcements in infrastructure spending ignores Mr Wheeler's plea for more economic legwork from the Government.

There is precious little in the Budget to create more jobs, deliver a real increase in wages and diversify the economy through encouraging new and emerging businesses to grow and export.

Steven Joyce's Innovative New Zealand is just the latest in a long line of Koru Lounge Funds that will only benefit the last person to get into a minister's ear. A $10m a year "Regional Growth Programme" isn't going to get essential projects up and running.

Research and development tax credits would make it far simpler to support business innovation.

Health and education are big losers in this year's Budget.

The health sector has endured $1.7 billion of cuts over six years and this Budget won't make up for that. Labour would fund health to meet the increasing and ageing population and restore confidence and morale to our health sector.

The funding to run our schools has been frozen in this Budget. This is an incredibly short-sighted decision. It is of course parents who will again have to pick up the additional costs. That adds to the strain for middle New Zealand - families that are basically going backwards. Labour would turn that around and also provide three free years of post-school education to boost skills in a changing workforce.

After eight years National has produced a Budget without the vision and courage needed to meet the challenges facing New Zealand today or to provide the hope and opportunity our people need.

- NZ Herald

Grant Robertson is Labour's spokesman for finance.

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