Sitting through TV One's coverage of the Budget, I thought Bill English's speech seemed to be over very quickly. I may have nodded off during part of it or, to use the phrase du jour, I may have experienced a "moderate adjustment" in my experience of consciousness.

With a haircut that screams zero Budget and Ayatollah-like eyebrows, he plundered his way through Scrooge's Thesaurus for the Thrifty. The key messages were short term austerity and long term growth.

Fittingly for Olympic year there was a false start with English proposing a motion for a second reading of the Appropriations Bill only to be reminded by the Speaker that he had omitted the first.

Read all of's Budget coverage here.


The motion was then put to the vote and predictably enough Winston Peters raised a point of order. Is he capable of anything else? Apparently John Banks had got to his feet to vote but may not have articulated an actual vote.

Perhaps his short-term memory is as bad as he has been claiming. Noteworthy that there is increased funding in this budget for dementia care.

And then we were under way. Behind Bill sat Louise Upston. She looked to have got full value from her active listening course as she nodded and affirmed enthusiastically at the back of the minister's head.

Alongside her, Maurice Williamson at least waited for Bill to mention technology before he started playing with his mobile phone.

A quick word from the studio boffins and we were back for David Shearer's reply. Maybe we should have heard more from the boffins. Someone needs to tell Shearer that using your thumbs for emphasis looks like you're giving the other guy the thumbs up. Especially when you have been muted by a viewer frustrated at you saying everything twice. Everything, twice.

Faithful deputy Grant Robertson sensed the boss was struggling and went for the show and tell recovery technique, handing Shearer a chart showing average GDP growth rates culminating in a current slump.

The chart had a distinctly homemade feeling about it and may have been Robertson's hasty re-labelling of Shearer's approval rating chart from another meeting earlier in the day.

However, it turns out that Bill and David were just the warm-up acts for the closer John the Kiwi Joker.

Like a seasoned pro comedian he grinned his way through a polished set. Shame the state of the economy is no laughing matter.

James Elliott is a stand-up comedian.