Friday, 27 May 2016

Was it a budget or a PR stunt

1. New Zealand currently has a housing crisis, with people being forced to live in cars and garages in Auckland due to a bubble and insufficient state housing. So is the government doing anything about it in today's budget? There's the $41 million of emergency housing spending over four years, and an inflation adjustment to income related rents subsidies (because rents are skyrocketing while incomes are stagnating). In other words, business as usual, rather than a credible response to the crisis.
Meanwhile, they're shoveling money at the spies, with an extra $178 million over four years. GCSB gets an extra ~$15 million a year and SIS between $18 and $35 million extra a year to hire more staff to deal with the "threat" of "foreign fighters" and invade our privacy even further. But really, what's more of a threat to New Zealand? Homelessness? Or imaginary "terrorists".
This speaks volumes about National's priorities. No money for the real needs of real kiwis, but buckets of it for spies.

2. “The Government had an opportunity to fund public hospitals and health care properly after years of funding shortfalls – and decided not to,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.
He was commenting on the Government’s Budget outlined today. A preliminary analysis shows an overall operational funding shortfall of $304 million, including a funding shortfall for district health boards of approximately $131 million.
“There have been significant funding shortfalls for at least each of the last five years,” says Mr Powell.
“This latest shortfall means that public hospitals’ continuing struggle to resource health services adequately in the coming year will get even worse. More New Zealanders will find it difficult, if not impossible, to get the health care they need.”
“It’s very disappointing that the Government has, once again, failed to invest adequately in our public health system. While it will undoubtedly talk up the numbers as a win for health funding, the amount set aside in this Budget is anything but.
“Senior doctors and dentists, along with nurses and other health professionals, now face another year of holding the public health system together while the Government looks the other way.”
- See more at:

3. “Today’s Budget is pitiful in the face of the biggest housing crisis since the 1930s Depression.
“With thousands of people homeless in Auckland alone, Bill English’s Budget is an insult to their desperate and immediate need,” says AAAP spokesperson Sue Bradford.
“The Government says it will increase land supply in Auckland, but under the current regime all this is likely to do is create more opportunities for private developers and investors.
“English confirms a $41m budget for emergency housing that offers no new beds over the coming year, despite demand which grows by the day.
“He adds a tiny amount – $200m over four years – to the grants available to meet social housing need. Much of this will be soaked up by rising costs and subsidies without creating significant new housing.
“Yesterday Paula Bennett served up a revised version of an earlier announcement, offering up to $5000 to 150 families to move out of Auckland into districts where locals already face employment and housing issues.
“In the unlikely possibility that this is a success, it will still be a tiny drop in an ocean of need.
“Anne Tolley also partially backed down yesterday on MSD’s demand that beneficiaries should be made to repay all debt incurred when Work & Income places them in overpriced, shoddy accommodation, but with no clarity on how this will work in practice.
“National continues to flounder hopelessly in response to the homelessness crisis.
“AAAP calls on the Government to immediately drop its commitment to state housing privatisation and commence a major state house build and acquisition programme, employing and training some of the 280,000 jobless people who are also largely ignored by this Budget.
“The consequences of National failing to deal with the emerging catastrophe in Auckland and elsewhere will be felt for years to come in downstream welfare, education, health, housing and justice costs.”
“This is hardly the responsible fiscal management so dear to Bill English’s heart, nor the kind of compassionate conservatism once espoused by some in the National Party, including the Finance Minister himself.”

4. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said there was only one way to describe today's measures - "the get stuffed Budget".
That was the message to first home buyers, people living on the streets, young families worried about the future, students concerned about debt and future jobs, and regional New Zealand including farmers worried about the bank manager's call, Mr Peters said.
"Now the PM may sleep like a baby. But hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders can't."
The New Zealand First leader held up a chart showing home ownership by income decile. Heckled by National MP David Bennett that he was holding the paper upside down, Mr Peters didn't miss a beat.
"You are exactly right. What ought to be up is down...and Mr Bennett, when we gain power, we are going to put it the right way up."
Mr Peters attacked the Government policy, announced by Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett yesterday, of paying homeless people to leave Auckland.
Why should people who have lived in Auckland for generations "make way for an immigrant", Mr Peters asked. NZ First was the only party with the courage to attack the country's "mass immigration" policy, he said.
"There is an elephant that is so big in the room that nobody else can get is putting enormous costs on New Zealand and impacting every government service...the rest of New Zealand is missing out."

5. A boost to some areas of tertiary spending has not helped relieve stress on pressure points for students and institutions, commentators warn.
Projected conditions meant the number of students enrolling in tertiary courses would stay steady. However, Joyce said ratios within different courses were expected to change, with a small decrease in university and polytechnic students forecast, and a rise in industry training such as apprenticeships.
The expected decrease in higher learning would be matched to a decrease of $3m for student allowances and $1m for student loans, since last year.
NZ Tertiary Education Union president Sandra Grey disagreed university and polytechnic enrollments would fall, and said loans and allowances should have been increased.
"Students are living in real hardship. This is a concern for staff and a concern for our students and for tertiary institutions.
"The Budget shows a lot of moving around money, and there's been a lot of little cuts here and there; we're getting less and are expected to do more with it.
"It really is a Budget that does nothing overall for anyone who's in tertiary education."
Massey University Students' Association president Nikita Skipper had also hoped for more social assistance for students.
"We've said the Government needs to look at the parental income cap [to qualify for] student allowances.
"Increasingly, we're seeing more people reach that cap, and not get any real support."
Gradual increases in the salaries of students' parents meant less students qualified for support. Paired with increasing costs and hardship, it created more need.
"We need to stretch the dollar around more people."
"University funding had not increased in six of seven years, because of the global financial crisis … it's the everyday business of supplying libraries and buildings [that institutions are struggling with]… most of this seems attached to doing new things."
Any additional stresses on students' ability to access loans and allowances would be expected to have an effect on numbers enrolling, finishing courses, and course choices.
"For things like clinical psychology, they study for five years, so they run out of money near the end, and it means it actually changes their ideas about whether they want to become clinical psychologists."
First-year veterinary science student Stephanie Hpa said financial pressures on students were causing real difficulty for some. Committing to a long, expensive course of study meant "not thinking about the cost", she said. 
"The price of living is going up and up and up."
Funding to keep a high quality level in teaching, tuition and equipment was a concern, and "pretty important to us", her flatmate, final-year science student Miranda Berry said. 

6. Government plans to bribe voters next year, true or false?

Mr English rejected opposition claims the government was storing up cash to lavish on tax cuts during their election campaign next year.
"I don't think they should be quite so cynical.

Labour leader Andrew Little said income thresholds should be looked at, with a view to pushing them up.
Mr Little said there would be much greater demands on any spare money for health, education and superannuation fund contributions than for tax cuts, but thresholds could be reconsidered.

"There is a case to say, yeah, of course you should review those thresholds. But when you've got a ‘boast’ from the prime minister, now - $3 billion of tax cuts - well, that's the stuff a lot of people would find disturbing given the social deficits that we've got.
"In the end, just constantly talking about those tax cuts, it actually takes away from the argument about what it is we're doing to lift incomes," he said.
Mr Little said looking at thresholds periodically should be a routine thing anyway. He said budget projections show real wages will actually fall in 2017 and 2018, and the government would be better to focus on pushing up people's incomes.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said this was not the time to cut government revenues, as the country faced real challenges such as homelessness and climate change.
"This whole thing feels a lot like an election bribe," he said. "Absolutely I think it's all about timing. What they're saying is there could be a tax cut in an election year, or even more cynically, the following year. In other words, re-elect us and we'll give you a tax cut - which is a straight out voter bribe," Mr Shaw said.

So you decide if this budget was nothing more than a sham, it doesn’t help the needy, it damages students even further, it continues to cut health spending, but it gives millions to the GCSB, the SIS and a massive boost to the military to fight American wars and support Israeli aggression… I can just imagine John Key kissing the feet of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton while sending more sheep to Saudi Arabia… 

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