For a package in which there were really no surprises, the Labour-led Government's first budget exercise has had a stunning impact.

It was summed up in one headline: Labour's package expected to halve child poverty.

The prospect of one package nearly halving the number of kids in low-income households (using the standard OECD income measure) when it is fully implemented is the sort of outcome that may assuage resentment of those whose tax cuts have been cancelled to fund it.

It is not that National's package did nothing. If it had been implemented it was going to immediately lift 55,000 children out of poverty or 34 per cent on the same measure.


As soon as Labour's package takes effect, in July, it will lift 71,000 children out of poverty, or 44 per cent.

By the time it is fully implemented, the figure will be 88,000 or 48 per cent.

National thought it could offer something to everyone. Labour is targeting families with children.

National is talking up the losers from Labour package of who there are many, wage earners, not all high earners, without children. But politically, there is only one loser and it is not Labour.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has instantly delivered on the Government's top priority, the area in which she has given herself oversight, child poverty reduction.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has delivered a respectable set of books – thanks in large part to National's stewardship – but which do exactly what he said, more spending, greater debt for longer, and no $11 billion fiscal hole.

If anyone thought that the student union had taken over the Government, they have proved them wrong.

Robertson was in his element and conducted his functions in the lock-up for the opening of the books, and in the House for a snap debate like an old pro, not someone who has been in the job for 50 days.

He should hang on to that happiness however. It may be the happiest he is in three years.

The allowances for unallocated spending over four years will demand very tight budgets and fiscal discipline.

Treasury's growth forecasts are on the upside compared with economists' and are therefore forecasting more tax revenue to spend.

It may be a very happy Christmas for Robertson this year but it won't take very much to turn him into the Grinch in future years.