Same the­atre, but this time the words of

The Press - - In Depth - Jane Clifton

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

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