Election cash splash
With less than a week to go until polling day, the bribes are flying in thick and fast. So, what’s in it for you?
YOU get some money! And YOU get some money! And YOU get some money! With less than a week before the polling booths close, the promises are flying thick and fast.
Solid policy-making, or out-and-out bribery? Whatever you call it, the outcome of this election is definitely going to change your personal finances. I’m not suggesting anyone should base their vote solely on self-interest, but you might want to know which side your bread is buttered.
Leaving aside the broader policies, here’s a comprehensive guide to the sweeteners on offer for each of the main voting blocs.
STUDENTS AND YOUTH
Almost all the parties are waving huge wads of cash around in an effort to get the youth out to the polling booths.
Labour is promising three years of free tertiary education (in the fullness of time), and bumping the student allowance up $50 a week. NZ First is also having a crack, promising to wipe loan balances for new students who stay and work in the country for five years.
The Greens are offering free off-peak public transport services for students, a universal allowance for all postgrads, and lifting the base student allowance rate by 20 percent.
The Ma¯ori Party is also on board with free public transport, along with a universal student allowance, and writing off the living cost component of all outstanding student loan debt.
The Opportunities Party wants to give $200 a week to every 18 to 23 year old, regardless of whether they’re studying or working. However, that would replace the student allowance, as well as the first $10,000 of any other benefits.
The Greens are promising to increase all benefits by 20 per cent, remove excessive penalties and sanctions, reduce the bottom tax rate, raise the minimum wage, and introduce a winter energy payment.
Labour’s on board with helping out with power bills, offering up to an extra $140 a month for beneficiaries and pensioners. It’s also planning to fund up to $2000 per house for upgraded insulation and heating, an area the Ma¯ori Party and NZ First are also keen on.
This is where National enters the picture, with a promise to extend paid parental leave to 22 weeks. Bill English appears to have had a well-timed change of heart, having vetoed Labour’s proposed extension to 26 weeks only last year.
National is also doubling the grants available to first-home buyers, which means eligible couples can get up to $20,000 of free moolah, or $30,000 for a new build.
Besides extending paid parental leave, Labour wants to increase Working For Families by $370 million a year, and introduce a new payment for parents.
The Greens include all this and more in their Budget For All Mothers, which also boosts subsidised after-school care, extends sick leave, and gives every newborn a ‘Baby Pod’ with clothes, nappies and bedding.
Finally, the Opportunities Party wants to give $10,000 a year to families with children below the age of three, as well as free, full-time early childhood education for three to four year olds.
Naturally, NZ First has the juiciest offer for the older demographic, promising an extra $800 to $1000 a year for SuperGold card holders, and to increase veteran’s pensions by 10 per cent.
The other contender is the Ma¯ori Party, which wants to make a free public transport scheme available to those over 60.
THE BIG PICTURE
A cynic might assume that most people secretly vote in line with their own selfinterest, whatever the platitudes they mouth in public. Fortunately, the research by political scientists suggests that’s not actually the case – we are capable of looking at the bigger picture.
With that in mind, this list of personal perks can only be one small part of the decision. Remember, there’s no such thing as ‘free’ money, because everything is a trade-off. Choose carefully, and maybe we’ll all end up richer as a result. Got a money question? Email Budget Buster at firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit him up on Facebook. ROSS GIBLIN/STUF has done next to nothing to get Ma¯ori into warm, dry, affordable homes, Fox says.
An Iwibank may also be the answer to branch closures leaving entire areas of the country bankless, Fox believes, such as happened when Westpac closed Ruatoria’s last bank in 2015, leaving a large tract fo the East Coast without any branches at all.
Exactly what an Iwibank would cost is not known. Fox says the party does not have the same power that National, or Labour, does to get all its policies costed in detail.
But, she says: ‘‘It will start small and grow.’’
The Ma¯ori Party is polling at between 2-4 per cent, but expects to have four MPs.
That means in government it would be a coalition partner, and negotiations would be required to make the Iwibank dream a reality.
Ma¯ori Party co-leader Marama Fox says mainstream banking practice cannot cope with communally-owned land.