Dame Tariana Turia

Whānau are missing

I was always told 'your word is your honour'. This Budget reveals the election pledge of $20m for Whānau Ora were just empty words.

The much acclaimed presence of Māori in the House has not resulted in tangible results for whānau.

The real winners of Budget 2018 are those individuals represented in the 70+ expert panels set up by Labour, leaving the expertise and wisdom of whānau on hold for another day.

The meagre pickings for Māori development are focused on setting up more bureaucracy (a Crown Māori relations unit and a Child Poverty Unit); programmes, providers, and services.

Even the lauded $5.5b Family Incomes Package is focused more on payments than on people.

The extent of Labour's support for whānau Māori could not be more explicit than the fact that the 'whānau' is not mentioned in the Budget Speech.

Kura Hourua repackaged as special character

It would appear that Labour will champion the gains that have emerged from the charter schools by describing them through another name.

The support for special character schools appears to be a means by which charter schools will continue under another category.

Kelvin Davis is rewarded with a new programme, Te Kawa Matakura, and there is a stated commitment to raising achievement for Māori and Pasifika learners. The detail remains to be seen.

Sufficient funding for mental health sector

It is good to see that in the allocation of $2.3 billion for District Health Boards the funding means there will be more money for services, such as mental health.

Unlike the absence of any commitment to Whānau Ora, at least in this respect the Government states that there will be more funding given to mental health in future Budgets.

• Dame Tariana Turia is the founder of the Maori Party and a former minister.


Advertisement

Sue Bradford

Nothing on welfare

In his Budget speech, Grant Robertson said "Budget 2018 lays the foundations for New Zealanders in the decades to come."

I wonder which New Zealanders he's talking about, and to whom he is being so carefully responsible in his determination to out-do Bill English's fiscal conservatism when it comes to confining his Government to the Labour/Green Budget Responsibility Rules.

There is nothing in this Budget on welfare, not even the fulfilment of Labour's pre-election pledge to remove the s70a sanction which means around 12,000 beneficiary families get even less money each week because a child's father has not been named.

Housing needs not met

It is good that the Government plans to build 1600 more state houses a year for the next four years, rather than the 1000 a year promised earlier.

However, this does not compute when the latest state housing waiting list stands at 7890 – and that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the real numbers of people who are homeless.

The promised 6400 new homes would not begin to meet real need even if they were magically produced tomorrow.

There is a huge disconnect between the Government's fine words about ending child poverty and giving everyone a fair go and what they have actually done – and not done – in this first budget of the parliamentary term.

America's Cup

They appear to have no willingness to confront and deal with the fact that homelessness and a punitive, inadequate welfare system are actually two of the key drivers of child – and adult – poverty.

Of course, it's good to see spending increases in some aspects of health and education and other critical areas.

Yet to prioritise $100 million for the America's Cup and boast of a $3.1 billion budget surplus [2017 – 18] while desperate housing and welfare needs are so massively unmet flies in the face of any Budget I'd call responsible.

• Sue Bradford is an activist on poverty issues and a former Green MP.


BEN THOMAS

Public sector pay hikes

Among the billions he has splashed out on health and education spending, Grant Robertson has only dipped his little toe into the potentially bottomless depths of public sector pay claims over the next three years, doling out $103 million for community midwives.

While not a pay-rise for the public-sector unions itself, it signals the first step towards health and education workers getting a dividend after what they claim is nine long years of underpayment.

Nurses, police and teachers will eye hungrily the billion-dollar surpluses piling up over the rest of Labour's first term.

The budget also delivered cheaper doctor's visits to a wider slice of the population by expanding community services card eligibility.

Housing pressures

Elsewhere, Robertson provided for 1600 new state houses to be built each year, an increase on the 1000 per year promised in the election.

Worryingly for the Government, given its big talk on housing, the Treasury's forecasts now suggest its flagship $2 billion Kiwibuild scheme will not stimulate private building activity as quickly as promised, creating more pressure for Government to deliver homes in other ways.

Governments often signal their values through which of the countless but often ignored rules in society that they focus on enforcing. For National, that was welfare fraud.

For the Labour-New Zealand Coalition Government, it is employers, with an increase in the number of Labour Inspectors, and a new unit to oversee environmental regulation by local councils.

Chasing cheats

Other priorities with the promise of being fiscally advantageous are more money for Police to pursue the ill-gotten gains of organised crime.

Additionally, Minister Stuart Nash has built on sensible funding for Inland Revenue to chase down tax cheats, generating more Government revenue.

It sits uneasily, however, next to the Government's reintroduction of a billion dollar "R&D tax credit", which is practically an invitation to firms and accountants to avoid tax through the shuffling of paper, rather than encouraging genuine innovation.

• Ben Thomas is a PR consultant, former journalist and former ministerial press secretary.