Child poverty among Budget targets

Children who aren't fed become victims and the Government has to deal with that, Prime Minister John Key says.

His comments come as action on child poverty is tipped to be the surprise package in Finance Minister Bill English's fifth Budget on Thursday.

Last week, Labour leader David Shearer predicted the Budget would be "for the boardroom not the smoko room".

But early signals suggest it will address some of the recommendations in the report to the Children's Commissioner by the advisory group on child poverty.

Top priorities in the report included better housing, food in schools and a revamp of family tax credits to give more to those with young children or more than one child.

Yesterday, Key would not rule in or out a move on food in schools but said National would not back Mana leader Hone Harawira's "feed the kids" member's bill.

However, he pointed to his state of the nation speech in 2007 and the Government's support for KidsCan, Fonterra's milk in schools programme and an extension to the fruit in schools scheme as signals he backed such moves in partnership with business.

This morning he said the Government was looking at the broader issues of child poverty and how to address them.

Most people accepted it's parental responsibility to make sure a child is fed, he told TV3's Firstline.

"The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn't fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue."

Deborah Morris-Travers, of lobby group Every Child Counts, said she hoped the Government would use the Budget as a first response to the hard-hitting report.

It estimated the economic costs of child poverty was $6 billion-$8b a year and found up to 25 per cent of children - about 270,000 - lived in poverty.

The Government has earmarked $800m for new spending but most has been allocated and there is less than $300m for any surprises on Budget day.

English will also confirm a return to surplus by 2014-15.

Other initiatives will revive a promise to "rebalance" the economy towards exports.

It was a central theme in 2010, but the Greens yesterday issued research by economic consultancy Berl showing the economy had gone backwards on several measures, including employment in the tradeable sector.

"New Zealanders are speculating on property rather than investing in the productive enterprises that will enable us to pay our way in the world again," Green co-leader Russel Norman said.