Labour, Greens dismiss budget

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 16:29 15/05/2014
Parliament TV

Labour Leader David Cunliffe responds to the Government's 2014 budget announcement.

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Labour has dismissed the Government's ''fudge-it'' budget, saying it massages the books, and the Greens claim there are long-term cuts to health and education.

Opposition parties this afternoon reacted to National's sixth budget. Finance Minister Bill English has delivered a $372m surplus, returning the books to black. As the election approaches he's also appealed to families by extending paid parental leave, boosting parental tax credit and allowing for free doctor's visits for under-13s. ACC levies are also likely to drop next year.

Labour leader David Cunliffe says National has adopted a pale imitation of many his party's policies. Labour is pushing for paid parental leave until 26 weeks, and announced a ''baby bonus'' package earlier this year.

The budget lacks direction and vision, while doing nothing to address ''housing affordability'' or a pending net migration crisis, Cunliffe said. But he conceded free GP visits was an ''attractive policy.''

''Migration is a problem...uncapping migration without targeting it fully at skills is a very bad idea. National's immigration policy is out of control...Migration needs to be at a predictable, steady level."

He added: ''Frankly, there is nothing to build one more healthy home in this Budget.''

Cunliffe argues National ''fudged the numbers'' to fulfil a pledge to return to surplus.

ACC levies on cars  - which are likely to be cut next year - should instead be slashed this year, he said. ''There is at least $120m to give back that's been deferred." An interest-free loan for Auckland transport projects should have been capital spending.

The surplus is "an exercise in the fiction section of a library'' with a $567 million cut to the Government’s contribution to Canterbury rebuild infrastructure.

Cunliffe refused to say if Labour would remain within the $1.5bn operating Budget, set by National, or if it will promise tax cuts on the election campaign trial.  

Greens co-leader Russel Norman said English achieved a ''faux surplus'' by cutting healthcare and education.  With an average inflation rate of two per cent, Health spending will fall from $15.6 billion in 2014/15 to $14.68 billion in 2017/18, he said.

In Education, a nominal increase of $10.12bn is a 5.5 per cent in real terms. 

"The cuts in these two areas alone equal $2.4 billion, two thirds of the $3.5 billion surplus National is projecting by 2017. National is paying for their surplus from cuts to our health and education,'' he said. 

NZ First leader Winston Peters said it was ''a steady as you go when you are going no-where Budget.''


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