Govt has ‘pulled anchor’ on economy — National
The Labour-led coalition’s first Budget failed to take advantage of a strong economy “gifted” to it by the previous Government, National leader Simon Bridges says.
“Everything we did was about making the boat go faster, and they’ve pulled anchor,” Bridges said in Parliament yesterday.
The Leader of the Opposition was particularly critical of what he saw as an underwhelming investment in the health sector.
He claimed that National had increased health funding by more last year than the Labour-led Government had in its first Budget.
National spent $924 million in its last Budget on new operating funding compared with the Labour coalition’s $774m — though National’s spending included $347m for a pay equity settlement.
Bridges said that was a fair comparison, because this year’s Budget included a pay increase to midwives.
There were also broken election promises, he said, because Labour had failed to provide free GP visits or fund 1800 new police officers.
But the main focus of Bridges’ speech was that the Government should have done more with what it inherited from National — strong books, a growing economy, and low unemployment.
“They are awash with cash but they’re still taxing more, they’re borrowing more, they’re spending more, and they’re hoping, and they’re killing the confidence of this country’s economy along the way.”
The Budget, he said, included little for working Kiwis and families.
“Don’t talk to me about a squeezed middle, Prime Minister. This Government is squeezing them hard and it’s going to hurt.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government could have held back its $5 billion families package for maximum impact in its first Budget.
“But we made a decision for people. We delivered it as fast as we could so that, in six weeks’ time, those families will see that benefit.”
She was defensive about her party’s flagship policy to build more affordably-priced houses, which has come under serious scrutiny.
“I would rather be a Prime Minister that tried and missed than a Prime Minister that never tried at all.”
New Zealand First leader and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters defended the $900m boost for foreign aid and diplomacy, which National has used to say the Government is choosing diplomats over doctors.
“[Bridges] may believe, as he said last week, that it’s a waste of money trying to compete with others in the Pacific, but our partners in the region and those outside it disagree with him.”