Govt has ‘pulled an­chor’ on econ­omy — Na­tional

The New Zealand Herald - - News - Isaac Davison

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.”

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