National Party leader Simon Bridges said Budget 2020 was a "tsunami of debt" that will all have to be paid back.

"I'm disappointed because I don't see a plan for jobs and growth," Bridges said in replying to Finance Minister Grant Robertson's Budget 2020 speech in the House today.

As is tradition, Government MPs gave Robertson's speech a standing ovation, but with a half-empty chamber and physical distancing rules, there were no handshakes or hugs this year.

BUDGET 2020: THE FULL PACKAGE AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU
The Budget at a glance
Audrey Young: Robertson keeps fingers crossed as he gives himself options
Wage subsidy scheme extended by 8 weeks, now up to $14b
Devastated tourism sector gets $400m but details are scarce
School lunch programme boost to feed 200,000 children every day

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Bridges said the key test for every piece of funding in Budget 2020 was: Does it save jobs and create growth?

He cited the forecast for $140b more debt by 2024.

"That is $80,000 a household, a second mortgage for New Zealanders."

He cited the 1000 people a day lining up for the dole since lockdown began.

"One thousand people a day face a very uncertain future."

He said the centrepiece for Budget 2020, a $50 billion Covid recovery fund, was "not a plan for jobs and growth".

"Spending money is the easy part but Grant Robertson doesn't even know today how he would spend it all. Much is unallocated.

"And it all needs to be paid back.

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"Today we see a tsunami of debt about to wash over us. The greatest burden of debt in our country's history by a long way."

He said a $400m fund to boost for tourism wasn't proportionate for an industry that employed, directly and indirectly, 400,000 people.

Bridges welcomed aspects of the Budget 2020, including the extension and further targeting of the wage subsidy.

Despite no indication of changes to the tax system in Budget 2020, Bridges said a Labour-led Government would hike income taxes.

"Taxes are the last thing New Zealanders need but they are a certainty under a Labour-led Government."

He said the seven weeks of lockdown and lockdown lite had been "excessively hard".

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"Workers and businesses have watched in horror as week after week of lockdown has washed away the businesses they have spent decades building.

"We've gone soft and slow on the economy. We should have opened up the economy sooner. We must unlock New Zealand and get New Zealand working again.

"Even now, lockdown of a kind continues. At level 2, more workplaces can open, but there are still many rules. I say to the Prime Minister: put more trust in New Zealanders."

National MPs also gave their leader a standing ovation, and MPs who couldn't sit in the debating chamber because of Covid restrictions stood and applauded in the public gallery.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Pool
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Pool

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responds

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded to Bridges by saying he had presumed things were "business as usual".

She said Bridges had not moved a motion of no confidence.

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"I take that as a signal that the Opposition will vote for this Budget today. Now is the time to come together as politicians."

She said the times ahead would be tough, and unemployment would rise as growth slowed.

"As a trading nation, that will have an impact, and that will be significant and it will be painful."

She said the targeted wage subsidy extension for another eight weeks would help industries that had been devastated, such as tourism.

The Covid crisis was a chance to improve the housing shortage, inequality and child poverty, she said.

She noted Budget 2020's billions of dollars to fund tertiary training for specific vocational courses, such as building and construction, which would close New Zealand's skills gap.

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She said borrowing $5 billion for 8000 state and transitional homes was an extension of the help already given to the homeless during the Covid crisis.

Those comments provoked interjections from National MPs about how KiwiBuild was going.

Ardern said jobs in pest control or to stabilise waterways as part of a $1.1b fund expected to create 11,000 jobs.

On child poverty, she said the Covid crisis could put more children in poverty, but that could be prevented by increasing the school lunches programme - which would also create jobs in the regions.

She said the Budget was about "jobs jobs jobs", and it was estimated to save 40,000 over the next two years and "support the growth of 370,000" more jobs over the next four years.

"The Budget sets out a clear plan to generate new green jobs, rural jobs, jobs rebuilding crumbling infrastructure and new training opportunities for those who need it.

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"But even this is just stage one."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo / Mark Mitchell
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Peters to Bridges - Get a real job

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said Bridges needed to use the first day of level 2 to "get a haircut and get a real job".

He shot back at Bridges' comments about the Government being likely to push up taxes, saying National in 2009 had promised no new taxes and then increased GST.

He suggested a Covid commemorative medal for services to communities, for doctors, nurses or community leaders who have "helped keep our team of five million safe".

He clashed often during his speech with National MPs and Act leader David Seymour, who laughed when Peters accidentally said "1909" instead of "2009".

He mentioned the $3b set aside for infrastructure, adding the Government under-promised and over-delivered.

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He said the "new normal" in a Covid world was about focusing on New Zealand, and "owning as much as we possibly can" rather than sell to offshore investors.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Green Party co-leader James Shaw. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Global economy a 'house of cards'

The past seven weeks has seen everyone protect and care for everyone, but Green co-leader James Shaw paid particular tribute to the work of essential workers, including police, farmers, and those who helped house the homeless.

"They are actually the ones who make our economy run. These people who have always been essential. Yet there are members of this House who still do not believe that these people deserve to be paid enough to live on."

He noted National had thanked those workers, but "they cannot heat their homes with thanks".

He said the Budget was about people keeping jobs, helping people retrain for new jobs, supporting those who had lost jobs and creating more jobs.

"All governments, ours included, should be judged on what they do to improve the quality of people's lives in a sustained and a sustainable way."

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Covid-19 had shown how "fragile" the global economy was, he said, but that fragility existed long before Covid.

He said Budget 2020 showed the Greens' influence, with $33m set aside for migrant family reunification, and $56m for more insulation in the homes of low-income people.

"What we need in the long term is not a recovery, but a renewal of our relationship with the natural world, and with each other."

Act Party leader David Seymour. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Act Party leader David Seymour. Photo / Mark Mitchell

No free lunch

Act leader David Seymour said the Government was planning an economy from the Beehive, but the recovery should be led by the private sector.

He called the $1.1b environment fund the "Barry Crump fund" that would see some people planting pine trees, others pulling down wilding pines, and others culling a wallaby infestation caused by the Government's ban on semi-automatic firearms.

Asking whether this would end up with more or fewer pine trees overall, he said: "My bet is on the wallabies."

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He said there was a lack of detail in the spending, citing the $400m for tourism.

"The press release I would estimate is $1 million a letter. There is so little detail. The Minister of Tourism hasn't a clue. He was asked on the Epidemic Response Committee what tourism was, and I'm not making this up, he said tourism was hard to define.

"There's over $200b to reinforce the message that's it's not a parent's job to send their kids to school with their own lunch."

Those kids will learn the hard way that there's no such thing as a free lunch, he said.

"They're going to grow up in a New Zealand with triple the public debt - $140b (by 2024) borrowed by the Government in their name in this Budget."

He also criticised the lack of public health investment by successive governments, leaving New Zealand with no option but to implement "the bluntest lockdown that has flattened the economy".

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He noted Taiwan, which has had only seven deaths in a population of 24 million, but did not have a severe lockdown because of wide testing and tracing of contacts from the beginning of the global pandemic.

"That's the gold standard."

He said Treasury's prediction of having no restrictions because of Covid-19 by April next year was a "heroic forecast and borderline fraudulent".

Māori Party's response

Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere said the Budget had failed to "take the generational opportunity that was in front of them".

Until today Ardern's response to the Christchurch mosque shootings and the Whakaari/White Island crises had been "impeccable".

"Therefore, the real question about this Budget is her ability - with all of that stored up
political capital - to deliver a society shaping resetting of the nation's compass across the
whole of society," said Tamihere, a former minister in Helen Clark's Labour government.

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New Māori Party co-leaders John Tamihere and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo / Supplied
New Māori Party co-leaders John Tamihere and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo / Supplied

"Our people wanted to see a 'PPE' – a post-pandemic economic Budget framework. A Budget where they were no longer embedded at the bottom end of town, where pre-Covid, Māori unemployment was twice that of others, and three times greater in the 14 to 24-year-olds."

The new post-Covid 19 economy required the Government to "unleash this significant youthful positive potential, not have it managed by a crude blunt and expensive criminal justice system or mental health system".

"Our people wanted to see a Budget where all New Zealand children would have an equality of the right to the same standard of education, health, welfare, justice and housing," he said.

"A Budget that targeted sustainable employment. There can only be empowerment by employment. There is nothing here that will lift Māori from the tsunami of unemployment."