If it wasn't for Grant Robertson this Government would look like more of a mess than it already does.

The Finance Minister's fiscal update yesterday reminds us that overall this economy of ours (and let's be frank, the economy is just about everything) is still looking pretty good and the books look to be in pretty good shape.

The key points are the surplus is rising, it'll be over $8 billion by the early 2020s. Our debt, and that's the most important figure of all, will be down to 17 per cent of GDP - which in any one's language is an outstanding number and can, and probably will, provide resilience through tough times.


Our growth rate is expected to bump along at 3 per cent, once again a pretty solid, if not spectacular, figure.

And it is Robertson, not unlike Bill English did, who has quietly got along with the business of keeping things running while too much around him is a mess. Between the Karel Sroubek residency saga, KiwiBuild, dumped ministers Clare Curran and Meka Whaitiri, the free fees revelation this week, not to mention the tsunami of working groups, too much of this Government is a mess.

To be fair, the Greens have kept their powder dry, New Zealand First has been pretty solid and in some cases the mature one in the gang. But given it's a co-lab, what the biggest party does, and how it behaves, reflects indirectly on them all.

The fact that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is still explaining Sroubek, in a story that's now into at least its eighth week, is a classic example of what a shambles they are. Even if they'd never promised to be the most open and honest and transparent government we had ever seen, even if they had not promised any of that, they'd still look dodgy.

But the fact they did make the promise makes them look shifty as hell. The opportunity to front-foot stuff, that may in fact mean little, if anything, has been consistently waved in favour or having it dragged out weeks later with the ensuing carnage that goes with it.

KiwiBuild is a mess with more bad headlines than good. It's a massive project with a massive reputational question mark over it.

And the free fees designed to boost student numbers - it didn't. No one turned up and all that has happened is those who bail early stick us with the bill, thus missing the classic life lesson of the harder you work for something, the more it means.

I said earlier this year I couldn't work out whether this lot are naive or Machiavellian, I still can't. I suspect it's a bit of both.


But as I also said at this stage of the political cycle, one, not many are gripped about who they're voting for and two, economies and their performance are the vote shifters, not a bunch of small rats and mice, like scandals that more often than not fascinate the press gallery and few others.

So here's to Grant Robertson who, although to be honest he's in charge of an inherited success, at least to this point despite all the clowns around him, has still managed to hold the greatest political jewel intact.

The numbers, they're good, and numbers don't lie.