18 Feb 2024
SPEECH: Leader of the Opposition’s Budget 2021 Speech
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I move, That all the words after "That" be omitted and the following substituted: "this House has no confidence in anything this Government promises, because after just four years, its track record of failing to deliver, of broken promises, of spin over substance, and of announcements over results speaks for itself".
That was a Budget for benefits, not for jobs.
The Budget is the time of year when hard-working New Zealanders look to the Government for hope and for a plan.
They want some peace of mind that their tax dollars are being wisely spent, that the Government is investing on their behalf inn the things that will create opportunities, that will generate growth, that will help them provide for their own families.
Perhaps this year, more than any, they are looking for signs of hope on the horizon. They're looking for some sign the Government has a plan for growth.
Instead, today what we saw is a Budget that's light on hope and utterly lacking in ambition – that's setting New Zealand up to fail.
Our debt as a country is set to climb to $184 billion – more than $100,000 for every household. New Zealanders want to know what they're getting for that debt. They understand that borrowing only makes sense if it's invested well.
The fact that our economy has held up better than feared gave the Government some options.
They could have left our children with a smaller bill. They could have made it easier to hire or do business. They could have provided tax relief to hard working families. They could have incentivised firms to invest in new technology and upgrade to more productive equipment.
Instead, today all we heard of was 19th century technology and no plans for building technology for the future.
They could have invested in infrastructure that would actually get the economy moving. Instead there's meccano lessons now going to be held in Dunedin to put together presumably Chinese-made products. That seems to be the answer.
But this Government doesn't really care, actually, about our children, do they, or grandchildren?
Because what they're doing is they're actually investing and hoping for the number of people who are going to become dependent on the State. That's what this is all about.
I'll agree with the finance Minister that New Zealanders made huge sacrifices last year.
Thousands lost their jobs and entire sectors of the economy were decimated, and they're the ones looking for a reason to stay in New Zealand.
But I'm sorry that under this Government and this Budget, New Zealand is going to lose more nurses, more teachers, and more engineers, and they'll lose them to Australia, because they'll be looking for a better life.
We've now seen four Budgets from Grant Robertson and zero evidence that it doesn't matter what he promises; he will not deliver.
The finance Minister knows it. He said right now, surrounded by Cabinet Ministers he's openly admitted he's got no faith in – that's why he's had to put himself in charge of an implementation unit.
When we were in Government that was called the Cabinet, and the person in charge was the Prime Minister. But not under this Government.
There's a lot of talk on that side of the House, but there's no action.
There's a lot of announcements. But let's have a look at those results, because unless someone really does have a better idea for New Zealand, and we do, we're going to just keep waving our kids and grandkids off to Australia, and we'll Zoom them, because, actually, we just don't have that much confidence in vaccinations ever being put in place in this country.
Let's have a look at these results of the announcements: 2017, Labour announced a $5.5 billion family welfare package.
They were going to take 100,000 children out of poverty. That's what they said. Let's have a look at the Budget.
I heard Grant Robertson talking about all these kids being lifted out of poverty. Page 31 of the Budget documents, in the child poverty report, acknowledged that economic conditions have gotten worse, and listen to this, particularly inflation, rent, and unemployment".
So the figures he was talking about today forgot the rent. Well, I suppose it's probably easy for him, isn't it? Then they said that they would have $400 million for Fees Free. Well, how long did that last? It's now abandoned.
They announced in Budget 2018, $300 million for 1800 new police. Then what they did is they shut the training college at the police college to stop the police reaching their target.
They also said $2 billion for KiwiBuild. Well, I don't want to gloat, but I think we all know what happened there.
$3 billion dollars for the Provincial Growth Fund—they've got a lot of debt, but not much else.
Actually, in 2019, the Budget had $1.9 billion for mental health, and I actually thought, yeah, that was good. But actually, two years later and a lot of these projects haven't yet received a dollar. So, no, that was a shame.
In 2020 the Budget was full of announcements. We had, this is one of my personal favourites, $1.2 billion for Jobs for Nature.
So far, that's cost taxpayers $830 for every hour of work it generated. For every hour. Not a day, for every hour. That's better than the best Queen's Counsel ever gets in the Supreme Court.
$5 billion dollars they announced for so-called shovel-ready projects, and a year later more than a hundred of them haven't even got shovels, let alone the ground to stick them in.
Then we had $6.8 billion for 36 New Zealand Upgrade transport projects. Well, just ask Chris Bishop on that one. 21 of those 36 haven't started.
So I've just outlined $26 billion worth of Labour spending announcements, $26 billion of failures, and still they keep announcing.
It's really easy making announcements and getting other people to pay for your public holidays, but how about some of those big campaign promises in 2017?
Child poverty, well, we know that's got worse. That's why they're doing this Budget today.
Homelessness, worse. Mental health, worse. Climate change, worse. Housing, worse. Every single one of those promises, worse today.
Have a look at their four years, astonishing. 1500 more children in poverty since Labour took over, that's why they're having to pay more in benefits.
The Prime Minister said the end of homelessness. Remember her lecturing Bill English about it? ‘Oh, Bill, that's just a failure of leadership,’ she said.
Guess what: 17,000 more on the State house waiting list under her Government. 4000 children growing up in motels, that's a million dollars a day. The motel generation, a shocking indictment on a Government that just loves photo ops and announcements.
This Prime Minister said that climate change was her, this was her David Lange moment, nuclear-free moment. Well, what's happened? Emissions have gone up. They've gone up. Something's happened.
They said they'd improve the mental health system, and even the Mental Health Foundation said it's got worse. Their answer to the Mental Health Foundation is to call the Chief Executive a liar.
They said they'd build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes. I know you want an update: 871 so far, four years in.
They said house prices would stabilise; they're up $300,000.
They said that rent would be stabilised; that's up a record $100 a week extra, on everything else.
Then just last year Grant Robertson promised no new taxes, no taxes on housing, no changes to the bright line test. He even laughed at the suggestion from that pesky media person who asked the impertinent question.
Well, no one's laughing now, are they? Tenants have got more rent increases and fewer houses to rent because of his changes, and all because he's desperate to look like he's doing something.
The Prime Minister's first announcement as Labour Leader was to build light rail in Auckland by 2021. Oh, what's this year, 2021. They have delivered Aucklanders the fuel tax to pay for it, but where's the train? Where's the light rail?
Andrew Little, and this is actually quite sad, promised the Pike River families he'd retrieve their loved ones. That was a particularly cynical promise, because he must have known, on all the evidence, that there was no way, and yet he made that anyway, $50 million and four years. That was really cruel.
We've been promised multiple times by this Government and that Prime Minister that border workers are being tested, only to find out they weren't.
Chris Hipkins promised we'd be at the front of the queue for the vaccines. We're second to last in the OECD. We've got 3 per cent of our population vaccinated under this Government. The only Minister, though, and be fair, there is one Minister who has kept his promise. I know you want to know.
Kelvin Davis. I have been quite mean to Kelvin Davis over the years, but, actually, kinder than he deserved.
He has promised to reduce the prison population, and that's very good. Isn't it nice? And he has. He's dropped the prison population by around 20 per cent.
But did he achieve this by improving outcomes for young people? Is crime down 20 per cent? No.
But he did let a whole chunk of criminals out early, and that's how he did it. He freed up the bunks. That's one way to keep a promise.
And, unsurprisingly, those serious assaults have doubled and gang memberships are at a record high. Very soon we are going to have patched gang members outnumber sworn police officers.
That is actually a shocking indictment of that Government.
Well, the Prime Minister promised she would lead a transformational Government, and then she changed it to a promise to be foundational.
Now, how about "aspirational"? How about a bit of ambition for the country?
But, despite all their press releases, we know, and this is why they've had to put up benefits: it's because almost 200,000 New Zealanders are now on the dole.
That is one in every nine New Zealanders are now on a benefit. In the last quarter, the last three months, New Zealand spent $33 million on emergency food grants, and last month, 360,000 New Zealanders relied on the accommodation supplement to afford a roof over their head.
If anyone's looking for a lack of leadership from the Government, it's on that. That means there's not enough places to rent.
Meanwhile, we're borrowing millions of dollars a day just to deal with it.
Grant Robertson said, "That's not a big problem. Interest rates are low. It doesn't really matter."
It doesn't really matter if he's worrying about wasting $100 million, $200 million, a few more million here.
But, actually, every time they do that, it means there's not enough money to buy the cancer drugs for Pharmac.
So today they announced $200 million extra for Pharmac. Well, we announced $280 million at the election. It's also one less dollar, every time he does that, there's less money to train new teachers and nurses.
There's less money for infrastructure and research and development or tax relief to grow the economy and help our hard-working families who are paying for this.
And, ultimately, it means Kiwis get to keep less of what they earn and the Government gets to keep more.
We're spending $2.8 billion every single year on interest alone. That's a heck of a lot of money. That's a heck of a lot of training for nurses and doctors. That's a heck of a lot of people, and that's what they're doing. That's actually more than the entire cost of our early childhood education.
So today's Budget, let's have a look at it. They said it's the "Securing our Recovery Budget".
I actually thought it was more like a "Cement New Zealand Stagnation Budget". But it's definitely a "Broken Compass Budget", with nothing to take New Zealand forward.
It's another Budget full of empty announcements; another Budget, zero plan for growth; another Budget that shows us Labour's planning for failure.
Last year, our economy shrunk by almost 3 per cent, the largest fall in GDP ever recorded, and, somehow, this Government thinks that's a good thing.
So Grant Robertson thinks that Covid’s given him the blank cheque. So this is what he's been doing.
All this money being spent on restructuring a health system in the middle of a pandemic, he's planning to pile more costs on to businesses, to insert the Government into more markets, to help unions hold small businesses to account and to ransom them.
He's the one who's actually wanting compulsory unionism, to weigh down our economy with regulation, to push rents higher, and to keep New Zealanders in poverty, to make it harder to buy a house, to make it harder to start a business, and to take more of what New Zealanders earn.
We think Grant Robertson would have presented a plan to unleash the economy, well, we hoped, but he didn't, to cut red tape and reduce the tax burden; to incentivise investment, innovation, and risk-taking; to attract foreign capital and fire up private sector job creation.
And instead of bringing us any ideas to get the economy going again, what we've got now is a total lack of ambition.
These people can't even bring back the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme. They can't even get apricots picked. They can't help the Pacific in the one way the Pacific wants it, which is, actually, money going into the Pacific earned by their own people, able to be spent by them.
Instead, their answer is always more handouts—more money on Wellington bureaucrats.
The one thing I'd say that's really gone up under this Government is the price of housing in Wellington.
The reason why? Because there's 10,000 more bureaucrats. I heard one of their Ministers, I can't even bother to remember the name, say the other day that these are not bureaucrats; these are the people who secured our border.
Oh, the jolly border's actually secured by the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, haven't they noticed?
It's a border where people have to come in either on a ship or in an aeroplane. It's not like they're running across the border. It's not like we have to put up a big wall. They think they needed 10,000 more bureaucrats for that. What are they going to do? Stick them in the ocean? Stop the ships?
I mean, here, today, you don't need a big complex RMA reform. They were going to sort out; they were going to do this; they were going to do that.
Oh no, they don't actually want to do that now, until 2024. And what's in 2023? Oh, that would be an election.
They don't want to tell New Zealanders what's in that RMA reform, because we know what they're planning in that, and that is not about more development.
That is not about getting more people into work. That's not about growing our economy. That's not about bringing more money into the country so that we can have more nurses, better hospitals, so that we can get cancer drugs for our people.
It is actually about shutting down development, shutting down our economy, shutting down people from having aspiration.
Because National has an alternative vision for New Zealand. We believe in ambition and we believe in people being able to do what they can do for themselves. And we'll get results.
We will move quickly to address the growing infrastructure deficit; Labour's dithering has compounded. We'll improve the key transport connections. We all depend on getting around our cities.
We won't tell people how they're allowed to go to work. We won't tell them that they're very naughty if they want to drive their own car.
We won't tell them that they have to wait for that light rail up Dominion Road that we've been waiting for for four years and it still hasn't occurred.
We will, however, say to New Zealanders that we will back our New Zealanders, and we won't say to our new migrant New Zealanders that we don't want them because they're not properly skilled. We will back our migrants and we will back our businesses.
When it comes to slashing red tape and backing Kiwis to take some risks and to innovate, we will welcome smart foreign investment and immigration so that our entrepreneurs have the capital and the talent they need to get things done.
We know this: we back entrepreneurs well over ministries any day.
We'll invest heavily in science to give our farmers new tools to cut their emissions and meet their sustainability goals.
We trust science. We trust technology. We trust our farmers.
We'll end the constant addition of new costs on businesses that drive up prices and lower productivity.
Just think about what's happening with electricity prices at the moment.
We'll eliminate the wasteful spending, let Kiwis keep more of their money, get them to be able to invest.
One of the great areas for investment is technology. This has enormous potential for us.
But we've got a Government that wants to look backwards, wants to look at the way things were in either the 19th century or the 1970s.
They don't want to look to innovation. They don't want to look to technology, apart from the fact, you understand, that they don't understand anything of it. They're threatened by it.
What they don't share is our vision for New Zealanders having high paid, highly skilled jobs that allow them to grow their own wealth and to keep more of it and to help their families.
Our emergency legislation on housing the Government has rejected. We said, "You want to get some housing built? Do what we did after Christchurch. Emergency housing, emergency powers. Get the planning rules sorted. Get it now, get it sorted, get houses built."
Then have a look at hardship and what there is there. Their policies, in Labour, are always about welfare first; work second.
Actually, one of the cruel things in the Budget is they've taken away the prisoners' ability to get work after they leave the prison. That's the shame. That's the thing.
So National does not grow dependency.
We grow the economy.
We grow New Zealanders, and we are ambitious for a better country, unlike that lot.