Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Govt partners cash in on promises

Parties welcome gains for low-income earners, charter schools and possible further health action.

The Maori Party included measures to address poverty in its support agreement with National. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Maori Party included measures to address poverty in its support agreement with National. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Budget Day is often the time for the Government support partners to cash in on the promises National made to them in return for their support. The leaders of those parties tell what they are hoping for in the Budget.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia
She said that in financial terms, the party made bigger gains in last year's Budget, but this year's was important because of the measures for low-income Maori, especially for housing. The Maori Party included measures to address poverty in its support agreement with National and many of those are expected to come to fruition in the Budget, including extending some Government subsidies to low-income tenants, greater use of iwi housing providers, more trades training and funding for rheumatic fever.

She indicated another area for change was in addressing the use of loan sharks by those on low incomes. "That's the biggie - that's the one that gets our people into very serious debt. This Budget is going to enable us to really investigate and pilot partnerships looking at that issue."

She said she would have liked to have secured more gains on poverty, "but it would be fair to say we were more than pleased to secure what we have in this Budget".

As well as Budget Day announcements there would be some post-Budget announcements to set out how money would be spent. One related to people with disabilities, and while it was not a large sum "it will make a big difference in the lives of people with disabilities".

Act leader John Banks
It has long been the Act Party's mission to get Governments to spend less money rather than more, so it is no real surprise that Act's Budget day announcements will number only one - funding for the "partnership schools" Banks is setting up as part of his agreement with National.

The legislation is expected to pass in about six weeks and he hopes to have four or five schools running by next year.

Beyond that, he has his own Budget wish-list, which includes raising the retirement age and scrapping the Cullen Fund. He concedes such measures are unlikely, but is hoping the Government will commit to selling off more of Air New Zealand.

"We are committed to debt reduction, less Government and significant tax reforms, as well as making life easier for small businesses."

Most of the other measures in Act's confidence and supply agreement involve long-term reforms and two have fallen by the wayside. Those are the commitment to open the ACC work account to competition and a cap on Government spending growth, neither of which have enough support to proceed.

But he is satisfied with measures he expects to be taken to monitor Government spending more closely. Work on that is due to begin soon, as is more work on regulatory reform.

United Future's Peter Dunne
He has secured approval for a $1 billion overhaul of Inland Revenue's systems and some funding for that will be in the Budget, although it was likely to be from existing baselines.

Mr Dunne said most of the Budget Day announcement he had to make would be as Revenue Minister rather than as United Future MP. But he was hoping for further action on health in the Budget - his agreement with National included developing the medicines strategy and he was pleased there would be an increase in funding for new medicines.

His agreement had also specified using private hospitals more for elective surgery, "So I'd also like to see more support for elective surgery."

There would be no progress on his proposal for free annual health checks for those aged 65 or over in this Budget - a proposal that had always been conditional on fiscal circumstances.

"In general, I'm keen to see us pursue the path to surplus."

Much of his agreement with National had been acted on, and the rest was unlikely to require significant spending.

The most significant measure pending was a discussion paper on his party's "Flexi-Superannuation" policy, which would begin soon.

Support parties

Act
On Budget Day: funding package for the first charter/partnership schools.

Maori Party
Already announced: $21.3 million more for rheumatic fever, $43 million to increase trades training places for Maori and Pasifika from 600 a year to 3000, $12 million for infrastructure on Maori land, $4 million more for Maori cadetship employment subsidies scheme.
On Budget Day: possible announcements around state housing, social housing and help for low-income tenants, loan sharks, and disabilities funding.

United Future
Already announced: Initial funding for overhaul of Inland Revenue's systems (expected cost $1-1.5 billion over 10 years).
On Budget Day: possible announcements on elective surgery and medicines, as well as revenue announcements.

- NZ Herald

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