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Rebuild the nation along with Christchurch

This Budget should not be about politics as usual.

It should not be about National vs Labour, Left vs Right or Us and Them.

This Budget should be about those that we are here to serve, about New Zealanders in their work, homes and families.

The Government says that the economy is in recovery. Some even say that it is booming.

We ask New Zealanders: is that true for you? Where is your recovery? Is your household budget booming? Where is your fair share? Are you not being squeezed by higher costs including that of Power, food, interest rates?

Fudging figures

National has asset-stripped Housing New Zealand, taking out $90 million in dividends, stripping up to 70% of Housing New Zealand homes in our regions, and underfunding Christchurch housing. Earthquake rebuild funding is cut by $567 million, below last year’s infrastructure budget.

As for ACC, at least $120 million of levy cuts have been delayed to support this year’s surplus; New Zealand Transport Agency – an unprecedented $375 million interest-free loan, instead of capital expenditure. Even Treasury found this odd (and is coincidentally almost exactly the same size as the projected surplus).

The numbers actually speak sadly for themselves – numbers such as $56 billion (new debt piled up under National), $1.2 billion a year (the ongoing cost of tax cuts for the top 10%) and $10 million a day (the interest we are paying on debt).

Reinforcing privilege

Since forming the Government, National has reinforced the privilege of the wealthy. Its major tax changes cut taxes for the rich and raised GST on everyone else. It has flogged off most of the family silver to 2% of New Zealanders who could afford to buy it and the foreign speculators who clipped the ticket.

This is not a Budget for New Zealanders. It is favours owed to big corporates, and the big end of town.

Cosmetic changes

Now, just months before the 2014 election, National would have New Zealanders believe that they have changed their tune.

Under National, Paid Parental Leave has increased to only 16 or 18 weeks, not 26 weeks, as it would be under Labour. The parental tax credit extension is less than Labour’s Best Start payment. Bowel cancer screening is five years too late, and comes only after Labour has already announced it. Kauri dieback disease gets funded, but again only after Labour has already committed to it.

The truth is that these small concessions are a pale imitation of the new direction that a Labour-led Government would bring. If New Zealanders want the real package, then they will need to vote Labour to get it.

Labour’s vision

We believe that the measure of economic success is whether New Zealanders’ lives are better and whether it is easier for them to get a job, pay the bills, and raise their children.

Labour stands for full employment; that every New Zealander who wants to get a job can get one. That is why I announced a goal of reducing unemployment to 4% by the end of our first term, as we have done before.

Labour has a plan to do it. Last time we were in Government, we achieved average unemployment of 3.9% during our last five years, and we will do it again.

Our monetary policy upgrade will help our exporters create jobs. Our forestry and manufacturing upgrades will reward innovation and investment in these job-rich export industries.

‘KiwiBuild’ is our plan to build 100,000 affordable homes in 10 years; we will turbocharge the construction sector.

Our KiwiSaver policy will help build a bigger savings pool here so that we are not at the mercy of foreign investment flows. We will also introduce Capital Gains Tax that will swing money away from speculation towards production and innovation. You will see decent employment laws that give people a fair go, a fair share and a meaningful rise in the minimum wage in our first 100 days in Government.

Better Housing

Housing is the largest cost for most New Zealanders and it has never been less affordable.

When so many people have no chance of the security of owning their own home and renting has become so expensive and so insecure, something is deeply wrong.

It is time to take the speculation out of the housing market, and get fairness back. It is time to build 100,000 new homes, principally for first homebuyers.

It is time to tackle the high cost of renting.

Fiscal foundations

The next Labour Government will run surpluses every year unless there is another international downturn or a domestic disaster. Our policies will be prudent and we will bring down National’s record debt.

The last Labour government ran nine surpluses in nine years. Our Government will put people first, build a nation in which everyone has a good secure job, and own home. We trust Kiwis to build this nation together, and we know that with a Government that backs them we can do this together.

David Cunliffe is elected Member of Parliament from New Lynn, Leader of Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. The above is an edited version of the post-budget address in the debating chamber on May 15, 2014. For full text, please visit www.labour.org

Read more in this Section and in our Budget Special under Businesslink.

Source: The Treasury

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