National 'fudged numbers' - Cunliffe

Last updated 05:00 16/05/2014

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Budget 2014

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

Finance Minister Bill English has delivered a $372 million surplus, returning the books to black.

As the election approaches he's also appealed to families by extending paid parental leave, boosting the parental tax credit and extending free doctors' visits to under-13s. ACC levies are also likely to drop next year.

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

The Budget lacked direction and vision, while doing nothing to address "housing affordability" or a pending net migration crisis, Cunliffe said.

But he conceded extending free GP visits was an "attractive policy".

"Migration is a problem . . . uncapping migration without targeting it fully at skills is a very bad idea," he said.

And there was nothing in the Budget "to build one more healthy home".

Cunliffe said National "fudged the numbers" to fulfil a pledge to return to surplus.

ACC levies on cars - likely to be cut next year - should be slashed this year. "There is at least $120m to give back that's been deferred."

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

Greens co-leader Russel Norman said English achieved a "faux surplus" by cutting healthcare and education.

With an average inflation rate of 2 per cent, health spending would fall from $15.6 billion in 2014-15 to $14.68b in 2017-18, he said.

In education, a nominal increase of $10.12b was a 5.5 per cent cut in real terms.

NZ First leader Winston Peters said it was "a steady as you go when you are going nowhere Budget".

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- The Dominion Post

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