The Budget represents the nostalgia for failed policies of the 1980s and 90s: asset sales will permanently worsen government accounts and the current account and reduce our ability to leverage R&D, jobs and community profits from these assets.

New investments with money borrowed from the public makes much more sense than transferring community wealth into private hands.

The Budget is also about the ongoing value of the mid-20th century public investment in social and economic infrastructure: Kiwis once rolled up their free education in a knapsack and took on the world. Now institutions battle with students for funds.

I don't know if penny pinching on prescription charges will mean more sick people take less of the medicine they need. I do doubt bigger classes are better for kids. And I know quality and free health and education return every cent spent in the sense of belonging they engender.


There is a denial of some very big new realities, like climate change and family change - $14 billion for uneconomic motorways rivals the Taj Mahal in monument building without the romantic edge. Arming Winz case officers with depo provera is camouflage for the disgraceful neglect of the poor kids in poor families on whom our future wellbeing depends.

There is an emergence of new voices and visions. Already future governing parties - Labour and the Greens - have developed common ground around public ownership, capital gains taxes, and interventions for higher wages. A zero Budget does not mean zero alternatives.