On Thursday afternoon I went to the pub. I work in Wynyard Quarter and there was a great initiative by local businesses to support local hospitality by shouting drinks for their staff at the local bars. The bars were packed, it was free drinks, after all, the atmosphere was buzzing and people didn't give a damn about a budget being read in Wellington. But as the odd hangover subsides for the patrons, the hangover for our economy continues for years.
Government spending has increased by 66 per cent since Labour came into Government. That means that they are spending $51 billion more than in 2017. I really want to repeat that. $51 billion. The Labour Government won't be worried that I repeated that number, because most of you don't think in billions and so you won't be too bothered because the number is so big it is unrecognisable to the average person.
So let's make it relatable. That is $10,000 per New Zealander. Yes, you have paid $10,000. So far. Well actually they have borrowed most of that, so your kids and grandkids will have to pay that back. When people say that spending $145 million on consultants at our transport agency Waka Kotahi is chump change, you're the chump.
The Government is spending $8 billion more on welfare now than they did in 2017. Sorry – my bad – YOU are spending $8 billion more on welfare now than you were in 2017, yep do the maths, that is more than $1500 per New Zealander that is coming out of your taxes. I know I don't need to explain how ridiculous this is when unemployment is so low and employers are screaming out for workers. There has been an increase of 53,000 people on the job seeker benefit - by definition, job seeker means they are able and ahem, ready to work. Obviously not.
There are a whole lot of things going up under this Government. The number of kids not regularly attending school has gone up. Not your problem as you're a good parent who can afford to read Premium? Well, it is as those kids are disengaged from society, some illiterate as they haven't learnt the basics, they are going to be problems in the future. At best they will spend a lot of time on welfare, at worst they will join the growing crime spree as they feel they have nothing to lose.
Rent is up about $150, house prices at record highs, the number of people living in motels is up, the waitlist to get into state housing is three times higher than it was and more are homeless and desperate. Yep, we are on the up and up. Our basics like food and petrol are also at record highs and our mental health through everything that's going on is truly suffering.
Do you think there is a plan in place? Do you feel like your kids' future is secure? I don't want to be all doom and gloom – it isn't really my nature, so here's some good news: some of you get to enjoy $27 a week for 12 weeks. I think I will go back to the pub.
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Paula Bennett is a former Deputy Prime Minister and National Party politician who now works at Bayleys Real Estate as national director — customer engagement.