Category Archives: NZ Politics

The Opportunities Party Campaign Launch – Gareth Morgan. 

New Zealand was founded on the idea of a fair deal, the concept that peoples from different backgrounds could come together and work out their differences without resorting to warfare and hatred.

The idea of that deal was to allow everyone in this country the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

That deal hasn’t always been honoured, but it is at the very core of what we as a nation are all about, fairness and opportunity.

This land of egalitarianism and opportunities has seen Kiwis achieve some remarkable things in the past century and a half….

A scientist from Nelson became the first person to split the atom

A beekeeper from Auckland conquered the highest mountain in the world

A girl from a tough background in Rotorua became the greatest opera diva of her generation

Writers, artists, sportspeople, thinkers, inventors people from every walk of life in New Zealand have proved time and time again that given the opportunity Kiwis can be the best in the world.

We have led the way in woman’s rights, social welfare, anti-nuclear activism and gay rights……..we have much to be proud of.

The opportunities that allowed us to do that were also based on the notion that each generation would pass on to the next a better country than they were born into.

A country with better education, healthcare and economic openings.

A country that was fairer, more egalitarian more civilised……in short, a country that offered ever greater opportunity.

But something has gone terribly wrong with that idea… the current generation…..the baby boomers ….. may be the first to leave behind a New Zealand of shrinking opportunities, less fairness and more inequality than they were born into.

We are in the process of flicking an intergenerational hospital pass to our children and grandchildren

We’re leaving them loaded with debt for their education, while we ask them to pay for our retirement.

We’re pricing them out of the housing market so we can make tax free capital gains.

We’re importing cheap unskilled labour to cut them out of entering the job market..and turning the country into a low wage, treadmill economy.

And when they don’t conquer the massive hurdles we put in their way we make them jump through hoops for welfare payments while calling them lazy dope heads.

We’re screwing the environment they will have to live in, by tolerating farming practices that degrade our waterways…..paying lip service only to the idea of climate change and the solutions needed to overcome or adapt to it, while pandering to industry sector groups without regard to the sustainability of their businesses.

We are criminalising and locking up ever growing numbers of men and women who don’t even get a chance in this shrinking world of opportunity, and we are standing by as the gap between the haves and the have nots widens.

You don’t need me to tell you how wrong all this is, you hear about it every day when you read our suicide statistics, homeless numbers, real estate ads, and crime stories.

And what is our political establishment doing…..pretty well nothing. Stuck in outdated left versus right political ideology with a tax & targeted welfare regime that is obsolete, they trade insults and argue at the margins as New Zealand, the land of opportunity, slips away.

They fight, not to restore the fairness of our society but to perpetuate their own political power in some vain belief that an ideology is what’s needed to get this country back on track.

Let’s be very clear TOP doesn’t care who leads the next government.

Those who campaign to change from blue to red or right to left are like a bunch of kids screaming “DAD’s burnt the dinner…let’s get the dog to cook”.

What New Zealand desperately needs are ideas to restore opportunities…..policies that aren’t designed to get a party into power but to fix the problems we have, reduce inequality, and take us forward into a world where our children again have more opportunity than we did.

If we don’t, we’ll end up with a select few owning million dollar houses in a ten-cent economy.

We know what those policies are.

Fair tax reform to close the 11 billion dollar property loophole, and deliver income tax cuts to every worker.

A UBI to end witch hunt welfare, underwrite human dignity, and ensure that when any of us are at our most vulnerable, our society is backing us.

Tenancy reform to give renters real rights so they can build secure homes without the mission Impossible of property ownership.

Real action on cleaning up our waterways, and having polluters pay, while encouraging best environmental practice from all industries.

A democracy reset to give us all clear constitutional rights, curb the power of cabinet and recognise the Treaty of Waitangi.

Real commitment to confront and deal with the challenges of climate change and make the country resilient to its inevitable assault.

A justice policy that wages war on prisons not prisoners

Education reform that recognises schools should lie at the centre of communities, and that the role of education is to prepare New Zealanders for a world of ever-increasing automation and diminishing income from mundane work.

And health policies that stop us literally killing ourselves, be it through suicide, or the ever increasing consumption of deadly foodstuffs.

None of these policies are rocket science, they are based on expert, evidence-based analysis of what New Zealand needs and can achieve with the resources we have available right now.

The only thing lacking has been a political establishment with the will to see, and courage to embrace the way forward.

We are all here today as part of the TOP movement to make a change……… not a change of government, but a real change of direction and focus…to make a real change in the lives of all New Zealanders to restore opportunities for future generations.

We’ve come a hell of a long way since November, thousands have put up their hands to join TOP, hundreds have volunteered, and we have awesome candidates standing across the country.

It hasn’t been easy – we’re the new kids on the block, so we don’t get the sort of coverage or funding the old establishment parties have access to.

But we have one huge advantage, we are free of the hatred of old tribal politics, we know what we stand for, and we can work with anyone who is genuinely prepared to implement policies that restore opportunities to New Zealanders.

I want to thank all of you for putting your hands up and having the courage to be part of a real change for good in New Zealand.

For having the courage to leave behind the class warfare and name-calling that has dominated politics for so long.

For having the brains to know that more of the same-old-same-old isn’t going to cut it for future generations

And most of all, believing that good ideas and genuine dialogue will beat self-interest and political game playing any day of the week.

We have already moved the policy debate in this country without a single vote being cast for TOP.

Acceptance of the need for cannabis reform is now widespread, our tenancy reforms have been lauded for their foresight, the UBI is now an accepted part of this country’s welfare debate.

But there is a long way to go.

I know we will be in Parliament after September the 23rd……just how much we can change the direction of this country will be up to voters.

You are the people that will help them make the right decision, to restore the values this country was founded on, and give equal and growing opportunities for everyone no matter what their gender, age, social status or ethnicity.

You can do that by sharing our ideas, reaching out to the good in every Kiwi’s heart, and making sure every New Zealander makes the decision to

CARE, THINK, VOTE and TICK TOP

The Opportunities Party

Housing Affordability, The Opportunities Party.

The Opportunities Party has a bold new plan to address the major problems confronting New Zealand, housing affordability.

While TOP’s ground-breaking Fair Tax System will stop residential properties being misused as tax free investment vehicles for the wealthy and suppress rampant house price inflation, TOP believes structural reform of the rental and social housing markets is also needed to solve the country’s most pressing social issue.

TOP will adopt a German type model to vastly improve the rights of private market tenants while demanding minimum standards for all homes and gifting current state housing stocks to non-profit social housing organisations.

The Opportunities Party intends to develop a deep market for long term rental accommodation so that families can be secure knowing that investing in home ownership is not the only way that security is achievable.

Party Founder and Leader Dr Gareth Morgan says, “Homes not Houses will alter the profile of New Zealand home ownership so the modest and low incomed no longer need to climb the mountain of home ownership in order to create a stable long-term home for themselves and their families.”

The ability to evict tenants will be greatly reduced and rental properties will need to be sold with existing tenants in residence. While market rents will still apply there will be regulations to prevent existing tenants being priced out of their homes.

The benefits of this policy package do not accrue to tenants alone. Reducing the social disruption of constantly moving home will result in less stress on families, higher educational achievement and reduced spending on social services to address the problems caused by that disruption.

“Solving the housing crisis isn’t just about increased building or decreased prices” says Dr Morgan, “It’s about the way a civilised society should regard residential property as a social asset for an entire nation rather than a financial asset for a select few”.


What Does Gareth Morgan Really Believe? – Bryan Bruce. 

Last Friday I sat down with Gareth Morgan to talk about why he had started The Opportunities Party and to try to gain a better understanding of his policies.

It’s the first of what I intend will be a series of conversations with politicians leading up to this year’s General Election.

I use the word “conversations” rather than “interviews” because as you will see the style is that I listen to what the person has to say for quite a long time before asking some searching questions.

If you don’t want to watch my  whole conversation with Gareth here are some highlights.

Gareth ultimately wants to give everyone, rich or poor, $200 a week unconditionally as a basic income. He acknowledges he cannot do this all in one go, so he wants to start with 18 to 25 year olds and families with young children.

He says no one would be short changed. If you are on a benefit that is more than $200 you would continue to get it.

Where does he propose to get the money for the UBI for young people from? By taxing the superannuation of over 65 year olds.

All pensioners would get the first $10,000 as of right, the next $10,000 would be subject to a means test. So if you are a wealthy oldie you won’t get the second $10,000 – that money instead would go to younger people as a UBI. 

He also proposes to tax people every year for living in a house they own because he wants to tax the total equity of a person i.e. a wealth tax.

During the conversation you will hear me raise a number of issues which I think are flaws in Gareth’s scheme – but he doesn’t.

For instance , if you are over 65 , receiving the superannuation and living in your own house you would have to pay tax each year on the estimated value of your property.

Now, unlike Gareth a great many superannuitants are not wealthy and will not be unable to pay the tax because they don’t earn enough each year.

No problem says Gareth.

The yearly house tax owed would roll over until you die. The trouble is, if you live for a long time then the State could end up owning your house and you would have nothing to leave to your children or grand children.

Do you think that’s fair?

Gareth thinks so, because he “doesn’t believe in inheritance”. 

He also says that he doesn’t have any preferred coalition partners. He will work with any government that will instigate some of his flagship policies.

I put it to him that if voters cast their vote for TOP then it is a vote for uncertainty (as it is with NZ First) because they will not know what government he is prepared cooperate with until after the election.

He doesn’t see that as a problem.

I of course do see it as a problem because I think voters want to have a very good idea of what kind of coalition government they are electing before they vote.

As you will hear – while I understand why Gareth wants to propose this radical tax reform I do think there are more than a few fish hooks in his plan –  some of which I raise with him on camera and some I didn’t because if people don’t buy into his main proposals then arguing about details that would then  never happen would have been a waste of his time and mine.

I appreciate Gareth took the time to have this conversation and  I have to say, I did enjoy it.

Bryan Bruce talks with Gareth Morgan

NZ Labour leaves genuine Social policy to others. The Greens make a moral decision. – Bryan Bruce. 

Good on them. The Green party’s Social Justice proposals released today are moral and just.

Those who are struggling and say they don’t have a choice this election need to think again.

Reducing  the bottom tax rate from 10.5 per cent to 9 per cent for anyone earning less than $14,000, while raising the tax rate to 40% for anyone earning more than $150,000 per year is a well overdue move to close the gap between the haves and have nots.

We have to lift around 179,000 Kiwi kids out of poverty. Their tomorrow, and ours, depends on what we do today

THE PREDICTED OUTCOMES

– A sole parent on a benefit, with two school-aged children and no paid employment: $179.62 better off each week.

– A sole parent receiving the Student Allowance, with two children, and part time work on just above minimum wage: $176.15 more each week.

– A single person on jobseeker support: $42.20 more each week.

– A two-parent family, with one working parent on the median income, with three children: $104.52  more each week.

– Two parents, both on jobseeker support, with three children: $207.46 more per week.

– A two-parent family, both earning the median income of $48,000 with three children: $130.19 more each week.

– Two parents, one in paid work earning $70,000 a year, two children: $87.85 more a week.

Never Was So Much Owed By The Few To The Many – Bryan Bruce. 

Apologies to Sir Winston Churchill

Voting 2017 – Taxation

What’s the purpose of an economy? Is it so a few of us can get very rich at the expense of the many? Or is it to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of us over the longest time?

I’m on record as arguing for the greatest good definition (see my documentary Mind The Gap) – which is why I think the following fact from Statistics NZ  tells you everything you need to know about why 30 years of neoliberal economics has been a disaster for the majority of Kiwis.

The richest 10% of us now own 60% of the wealth of our country … and the poorest 40% own just 3% of it.

That’s serously unfair.

Which raises the question: How could I use my two votes this September to turn our country back in the direction of a fairer society?

Well, for one thing, I could consider casting them for candidates and parties offering to  alter our Tax Laws so the wealthy are reqired to pay more of their fair share to the sociey from which they so greatly benefit.

So I’ve taken a look at what I understand each of the political parties to be saying about Tax reform and added a comment or two about each of them.

NATIONAL – say their economic plan is working so well they want to give us tax cuts.

Well, who wouldn’t want more money in their  own pocket? But when DHB’s are begging for money to meet a Mental Health crisis in Canterbury and being told it’s “inappropriate”,  when there’s a teacher shortage, when we have food banks and families sleeping in cars and motels because we don’t have enough houses for them – then it seems to me we clearly need more money in the public purse, not less. So Tax Cuts don’t impress me.

ACT – want to cut taxes dramatically but say they won’t cut core services. 

How’s less money in the public purse going to deliver better health, housing  and education for all?

More trickle down theory? More public /private partnerships like Serco ? No thanks.

UNITED FUTURE – a bit hard to find their policy. You have to hunt through press releases. One page I did find says they want a “broad based low rate tax system” so  currently my comment about ACT also applies to them. 

If anyone from United Future wants to send me a link to a synopsis of their tax policy I’d like to read it and update my notes if necessary.

MAORI PARTY  –  I may have missed it but I can’t find a 2017 tax policy statement on their site (other than they want to extend the Tax Credit for all low income families).

Last election The Maori Party Tax policy was No tax on the first $25,000 earned, all food exempted from GST, removal of tax from prescription medicine,implement financial transaction tax which curbs the ability of speculators to make tax-free profits from short-term investments in our financial markets.

Interestingly they went into active coalition with a  party  that wants none of those things.

MANA PARTY  – I also can’t see a current tax policy on their site . Again I’d appreciate a link to a tax position statement.

In the past Hone Harawera has promoted such things as removing GST from everything but tax fast food and soft drinks, a financial speculation tax, no tax on first $27,000 earned in low-income househod, high-earners paying high taxes, capital gains tax (excluding Maori land and family home) and reintroducing inheritance tax.

Perhaps a joint Mana/Maori taxation policy is coming?

LABOUR  – say they want to do things like  “build thousands of affordable homes, fix the health system by turning National’s years of underfunding around and rebuild world-class. 

All apparently without raising taxes.

It seems to me the only way you can spend money on selected policy areas without  raising additional revenue through taxes is to take it from some other part of the budget . So what would  Labout cut back on?

Then there’s the apparent inconsistency with the 5th statement in their Budget Responsibility rules:

“The Government will ensure a progressive taxation system that is fair, balanced, and promotes the long-term sustainability and productivity of the economy.

This is where I find Labour’s Tax policy confusing. The current taxation system is clearly unfair (otherwise the richest 10% would not own 60% of the wealth) but Little says they are not going to change it.

So what does the promise of the 5th Budget Responsibility statement amount to? How will they ensure “a progressive taxation system that is fair” if they are not going to increase taxes??

Again if someone has a link that explains these apparently conflicting statements please send it to me.

GREENS – Under the Budget Responsibility Rules they say that in coalition with Labour they want to “build a fairer tax system” and that they “will establish a group of independent experts on how best to achieve this.”

Frankly I’m surprised that given all the years they have been in opposition they haven’t done that already.

So the way I read it, under a Labour/Greens coalition, taxation would stay the same until they figure our how to make taxation fairer and until that happens they will be shifting money around from the existing tax take to spend more on social and environmental policy areas. So again, which budget areas will receive less so that  their preferred areas can have more?

NZ FIRST   – say they want to “replace the existing tax system with a fair and equitable system based on people’s capacity to pay, so that people and businesses who benefit from the higher incomes made possible by New Zealand’s economic potential will bear a greater portion of the tax burden than those with lower incomes.”

So again there is a recognition that the wealthy are not paying their fair share, but also again – unless I missed it – they don’t explain what their new “fair and equitable” tax  would look like and how it would work.

They do say they want to remove GST from food .

That’s good –  but while recovering that loss of income by chasing tax evaders (as they say they will do) is laudable, it won’t be easy and it won’t be cheap (There will be new costs – everything  from additional tax inspectors to court costs.)

So in the coming weeks I’d really like to see some costings and a clearer explanation of how their “fair and equitable” tax reform will work.

THE OPPORTUNITIES PARTY  – wants tax reform but not as most of us have thought of it in the past.

They say they “want to change WHAT is taxed not the amount of tax.”

They think that “all income should be taxed, whether it is in cash or in kind.”

Now I’m good with the idea that making a profit on the sale of your house shouldn’t be treated any differently from tax you pay on, say, the interest you earn your savings bank account (if you are fortunate enough to have one).

Where they lose me is when they argue that home owners are effectively living rent free and therefore tax free – because if they were renting their house to someone else they would be taxed on  that income. They say  that situation is unfair .

They seem to be arguing that homeowners should pay what they call “imputed rent” for the privilege of living in their own home. 

However home owners often pay mortgages in order to have the privilege of having a home and security of tenure and they pay rates which is a tax based on the estimated value of their property. A tax which pays for many things that non property owners enjoy – such as rubbish collection, parks, up keep of the city roads etc.

Also not all homeowners are speculators or in it for the capital gain. My guess is that most homeowners are in it because they want security of tenure for themselves and their families. 

So I’m not persuaded home owners are getting the totally free ride TOP seems to be suggesting is the problem.

Also it seems to me that if you want better social services such as better health and education then you have to find ways of getting MORE money in to the public purse – no the same amount albeit in a different way

NZ DEMOCRATS FOR SOCIAL CREDIT

They want to abolish GST and replace it with a Financial transaction tax. They are a monetary reform party but I can’t see a policy on personal income tax reform. Again if I’ve missed it please send me a link and I will modify my notes. 

Me? I’m still deciding .

I think the established parties of the Left are leaving  themselves open to the John Key line “show me the money”.

However I also think the parties on the Right need to ”show me the compassion”.

How can you take less money in through taxation and deliver things like quality education and health?

Through public/private partnerships? Well, maybe where the private arm is genuinely a not for profit (and the executives don’t cut themselves huge salaries) … but private profit driven companies working for the public good? What? You mean like Seco? No thanks.

But, as I say, that’s just what I think. How about you?

Please remember Knowledge is Power – and so is Voting. So talk about the issues that affect us all with your friends and whanau. To have your say on election day please make sure you are enrolled.

Here’s the link: http://www.elections.org.nz

‘These problems will not be fixed by the market’ – Bruce Plested. 

Over the years I’ve had a variety of bosses. In seeking to recognise a good boss from one not so good, I asked this question: ‘Would they make a good foreman?

  • Could they ask the workers to do a difficult or unpleasant job and expect them to do it?
  • Could they do the job themselves?
  • Could they take their people with them?
  • Did they get the job done every day, week and year?

With 2017 being an election year in New Zealand it is worth asking these questions of our politicians.  Too many of them fail the test and are lost in platitudes, jokes, jibes, foxy words and sheer procrastination.

Housing

Our houses, through most parts of New Zealand, cost some ten times the net annual income of the family seeking to buy them.

These high prices (three times annual income was normal for many years prior to the early 2000s) have been progressively increasing for the past 15 years, and all governments have been aware of the problem. No government or local government has taken any meaningful action against this rising tide.

As the New Zealand Initiative has stated, “There are not enough homes being built to meet the demand.”

Why?

  • Planning restrictions make it difficult to increase population directly within the city boundaries.
  • Cities are prevented from growing outwards because of rural and urban boundaries.
  • New developments require infrastructure investment from local councils, which can only pay for such investment by rates increases.

Politicians, both local and national, must take action on this very fixable social disgrace. “The market” cannot sort out this problem. Real leadership and intestinal fortitude is needed now.

Education

Measured by some standards, our education is at satisfactory levels on a global average scale. However only 30% of children from lower decile school areas are reaching the New Zealand average for level 3 NCEA.

This low level of success continues the establishment of a permanent socio-economic group of under-achievers in education, and it is our Māori and Pacific Island people who make up most of this group.

This group of under-achievers are more displaced than ever by rising housing and rent prices. Without educational success they will continue to make a lesser contribution to society.

Business can play a bigger role in attempting to sustain and assist educational development. If businesses and schools, particularly in lower decile areas, get together in a meaningful way, benefits will evolve. The more children understand how a business (from a farm, to a fruit shop, to an engineering factory, to a quarry) works and interacts, the more they can understand the possibilities. Business people may be able to inspire children and parents to strive for success, and may be able to contribute to financing school wish lists, from computers to sports equipment, books to bus trips.

Can electorate and local politicians help make this happen?

Environment

Pollution and degradation of our environment is another area requiring strong political will.

Most cities provide bins for rubbish and bins for recycling. There is however no education, or ongoing exhortation, on how to recycle, why to recycle and whether it works. Is an unwashed bottle or can recyclable, or does it go into landfill? Should we recycle bottles with the lid left on? Should wine bottles have the lead seal removed? What happens to polystyrene, what happens to plastic bottles with pumps attached, what about empty aerosol cans? Much of this stuff is going to landfill because our local authorities don’t tell us what is required. If recycling is just a myth, let us know, otherwise teach us to recycle for the benefit of the planet.

Our lack of respect for water and water quality is an indictment of governments going back decades. Various businesses and pressure groups have been allowed to pour chemical waste, animal entrails, milk, and human and animal effluent into our streams, rivers and sea. Freshwater rights for irrigation have been given, to the extent that some rivers run dry most years. And now we are giving water rights to export freshwater in plastic bottles.

Regulators could have stood against many of these past and present excesses, but chose to do nothing and leave the problems to our children and grandchildren.

A couple of years ago I heard a European billionaire being interviewed. When the slightly irritable reporter asked “Well, how much money do you want?” the billionaire answered “Just a wee bit more.”

And it is the “wee bit more” that has done so much to damage our environment – just a few more cows per acre, just a wee bit more water for irrigation, just another water bore in case it doesn’t rain, just a wee bit more sewerage mixed with a wee bit more storm water, just a few more years hitting our already depleted fish stocks.

The problems mentioned here are not fixed by the market. They are like law and order – the local and national politicians should be dealing with them and committing to solutions before the next elections.

***

Bruce Plested, Mainfreight founder. 

The Spinoff

NZ Budget 2017. A Government trying to make up for past neglect – Max Rashbrooke. 

In it’s 2017 Budget the NZ Government seems to be playing the role of a parent who, after years of providing minimal support, turns up at their child’s birthday party bearing presents and hoping to be showered with praise.

There is, admittedly, much to commend in the Budget, for what it does to support New Zealanders and to increase fairness: the $321 million package for “social investment”, focused on mental health; the major boost to Working for Families that will raise payments by up to $26 a week per child; the lift in the accommodation supplement that gives low-income people $25-$75 extra a week to offset housing costs; and so on.

And the Government did last year increase benefits for those with children by $25 a week.

But this has to be set against the overall neglect of past years. Working for Families may get an extra $1.1 billion between now and 2021, but it has, according to Auckland University assistant professor Susan St John, been cut by $2.8 billion since 2010. Those cuts have been made stealthily, by clawing back more of the payments as people’s incomes rise and by not adjusting payments for inflation.

The low- and middle-income families who rely on those payments to make ends meet are still worse off in the bigger picture.

Health, meanwhile, gets a little under $900 million in the coming year, but analysis by the CTU shows that it needed nearly $1.1 billion just to keep up with health sector inflation – the increased costs of medicines and equipment – and the equal-pay settlement for aged-care workers.

So despite the headlines, and some genuine giveaways, this Budget often falls short of what is needed just to maintain current services, adding to the shortfalls that have occurred throughout the past eight years.

That parsimony has been a choice, not a necessity: ministers could have maintained vital services by adding a little to our extremely low government debt, an investment that would have more than paid itself off over the long run.

The Government may say that it is spending more, in pure cash terms, than it did on taking office.

But the true value of its spending can be seen only when it is adjusted for inflation, which eats away at the worth of each dollar, and for population growth, since each extra person – as a patient, a pupil, or whatever – needs extra funding.

Calculations by Victoria University and the New Zealand Institute for Economic Research show that, from 2009 to 2016, core government spending actually fell on an inflation-adjusted, per-person basis – only by 0.7 per cent, hardly the slash-and-burn some on the Left would claim, but a cut nonetheless, at a time when the  global financial crisis has been hammering families and problems like climate change have loomed ever larger.

It’s no wonder that schools, for instance, are struggling, when their funding has, on this measure, fallen in the past seven years.

Separately, Forest & Bird calculates that spending on core native species protection has dropped 21 per cent since 2009 – a cumulative shortfall of $230 million.

And the damage done by these funding shortfalls is clear to see, in the thousands of New Zealanders who are homeless, in the tens of thousands of children living in poverty, or in the over-subscribed mental health services having to turn people away.

The Budget will, of course, get plaudits for lifting disposable incomes through its tax threshold changes, something that makes the biggest difference, proportionately, to low- and middle-income earners.

But people on six-figure salaries will also be made more than $30 a week better off by the tax cuts, even though they are hardly struggling now.

And bear in mind that, even though more people have been moving into higher tax brackets (a process known as fiscal drag), New Zealand still takes less in income tax from typical wage earners than any other developed country, according to the OECD.

The consequence of the latest tax cuts, especially those that benefit the already well-off, is that there is relatively little to spend on the collective goods needed for the country to function: protecting endangered species from extinction, educating our children for a fulfilling and active life, making sure everyone has a warm and safe house, and so on.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce says the families package will lift 50,000 children out of poverty. That would be fantastic news. But presumably it relies on the extra money really going into families’ pockets, as opposed to being swept up by landlords who may now think they can charge more.

And with little in the Budget to help build houses and create more competition among landlords, the latter scenario looks quite likely.

The Budget may still be an electoral success. Governments often aim not to solve problems but to stop their softest voters deserting them on specific issues, and this Budget may do just that for compassionate National supporters. It really depends on how much voters feel inclined to punish ministers for their past neglect.

***

Max Rashbrooke is the author of Wealth and New Zealand and a research associate at the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies.

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