Editorial: The Budget highlight

Last updated 05:00 16/05/2014

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OPINION: The contrast was telling, helped by the fact Australia's Budget and ours came just two days apart.

Theirs: there will be pain for everyone.

Ours: we're operating with a surplus and tax cuts may even be on the way.

But hey, we're heading into an election, so there's bound to be some gloss. They aren't.

The National Government has worked long and hard on being able to say it is spending less than it is collecting, and right on cue it has achieved that.

Selling off a few state assets and spending most of the proceeds has helped, of course, and as Labour's David Cunliffe rightly points out, National has borrowed a massive $56 billion in its tenure, which costs $10 million a day in interest.

He says that's a lot of money that could be spent on lifting kids out of poverty, which indeed it is.

But because National is the Government it sets the agenda, and the agenda yesterday was for enough lollies to keep sugar levels up without creating a free-for-all.

So, some warm fuzzies for those with kids: paid parental leave increased from 14 to 18 weeks; free GP visits up to 12 years old instead of five; an extra $150-odd million for early childhood education centres.

Some nice sounding things: $130 drop a year in ACC levies on cars (when we're being overcharged now); and $3500 off the cost of building a house by freezing tax on imported building products (which won't cover the extra costs forced through legislative changes).

A baffling thing: a minimal $33m to bring down high levels of child abuse and neglect, compared with $26.5m to protect kauri from dieback disease.

Some sensible things: $100 million to get more people off benefits and into work (as long as it's into a job or education and not just finding a way to stop them collecting); and reasonable increases in the important health and education budgets.

And a not so sensible thing: no more money for Christchurch when it is so clearly short of money. Or first home owners for that matter.

Oh, and apparently wage-earners are going to be better off by an average $7600 a year within four years. Well, that's what Treasury reckons anyway, so if you were National, why wouldn't you throw that in?

It's a steady Budget without attempting to buy votes.

The best thing about it?

It's not Australia's.

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- The Timaru Herald

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