Same theatre, but this time the words of
Once a spellbinding thriller for the nation, the Budget reading in Parliament has become like a surprise party everyone knows about well in advance, but has to pretend to be gobsmacked by on the day.
Fresh from lengthy officials’ briefings about policies and spending that have been telegraphed for months, Opposition MPs yesterday failed to fake startled horror, and Government MPs muffed their duty to pretend to be tickled pink.
Everything Finance Minister Grant Robertson said would be in his first Budget was in it. Some promises were delivered immediately, others would be phased in over months or years. This gave the Opposition two options: to deplore the lax and cynical spending represented by the former, and to crow about the broken promises technically represented by the latter.
Still, the lack of novelty or suspense made for a rather flat 45-minute reading. Ministers neglected to do the customary bobble-head affirmations of gratitude for the extra gazillions at their command. The Opposition was slack on the pithy interjections, heads down swatting frantically for new scathing things to say.
There was at least a fresh set of buzz-words. In National Budgets, we had multiple references to ‘‘headwinds’’, ‘‘innovation’’, ‘‘ambition’’ and ‘‘step-changes’’, which roughly translated to ‘‘We are hoping things will improve’’ and qualifying references to ‘‘resilience’’, which meant ‘‘If things don’t improve, you’ll have to take a cement pill’’.
The new Government’s rhetoric is heavily dependent on ‘‘care’’, which means ‘‘no tax cuts’’; ‘‘inclusive’’ (no tax cuts); ‘‘rebuilding’’ (no tax cuts and changing National’s acronyms); and ‘‘sustainability’’ (new spending, no tax cuts and humouring the Greens). There was also a lot of ‘‘productivity’’, meaning, ‘‘No tax cuts but hopefully more tax revenue’’.
Robertson’s special favourite was the ‘‘transitioning opportunity’’ – a way of saying the Government is doing some things lots of people won’t like, but it will take a while to do them in the hope of softening the blow.
Specially for Christchurch was a new ‘‘acceleration fund’’ – a fund you have when you already have funding, but nothing much has happened yet, so more money