If there's a word to sum up this week's Budget, it's relief.

For the past seven months, this Government has been full of surprises.

Labour has caused too many frights. Business got a fright with Labour's oil and gas decision, voters got frights with how many promises they were breaking, and everyone got a fright at how unprepared for office they were.

The Budget could have been another fright. But instead, it was predictable and sensible.



Hence the relief. For the first time in a while, nothing crazy happened.

Which is why I'm surprised at the criticism of Finance Minister Grant Robertson's first budget. Critics have labelled it flat, boring, not bold enough, too tight.

Actually, being bold is exactly what Robertson needed to avoid. There has been too much crazy dressed up as boldness already.

Boring is exactly what the doctor ordered.

The big spends in the Budget were sensible: health and education. Every single one of us will use one, if not both, at some stage in our lives. So we care about both sectors. How can anyone argue with spending on them?

There's no doubt both sectors were underfunded. National can defend their health spending all they like but, under them, DHB budgets were stretched rubber band thin.
How else can you explain as many as 19 out of 20 DHBs going into deficit?

Education was also underfunded. It doesn't sound like schools have had enough money for a while. Not when you hear stories of pupils learning in staffrooms and teachers unable to take leave because there's no one else to cover them.


So, it's only right to give the biggest injections of cash to those areas - $3.2 billion to health and about $2b to education.

The Budget contained no nasty surprises. If there was one, it was the nearly $1b Winston Peters screwed out of Labour for foreign aid and diplomats. But that spend was announced more than a week out, so it wasn't much of a surprise.

Labour made this Budget so boring critics were left scratching for something with which to deflate it.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during her Budget speech this week. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during her Budget speech this week. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Some had a go at just how much Peters got out of the budget. Old news. Yes, he's screwed a lot of out of this government, but we already knew that. We didn't learn that this week.

Some fixated on the race horse tax break. Put it in perspective. Every Budget has a few weird spends that raise eyebrows. This is no different. And in the context of the $1b foreign aid spend Peters screwed, plus the $3b for Shane Jones' regional piggy bank, this is not much. It's $5 million. Chump change, really.

So, good on Labour for getting this one right. We need more of this from the Government. Less crazy, more predictable, please.

Business needs predictability to encourage investment. Voters want it for much of the same reason but on a smaller, household budget scale. It's the very reason we opted for MMP in the first place. The point of MMP was to stop something sudden and shocking like Rogernomics happening again.

That doesn't mean Labour can't shake things up. It can transform all it likes.

Predictability doesn't rule out transformation. Labour just needs to let us know it's coming. Case in point: the oil and gas decision. Major change. Major surprise. It didn't have to be. A little heads up would've knocked the WTF out of the negative reaction. And no, going out the front of Parliament to meet 50 oil and gas protesters is not enough of a signal.

So, a good Budget. Here's hoping it's a sign Labour's putting crazy to bed.