Editorial: A year of promises

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014

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OPINION: Is this going to be a long election campaign or what?

National, the Greens and now Labour have all started their electioneering ... and there could still be 10 months to go.

National got the ball rolling with a plan to give good teachers more dough and so raise overall education standards, the Greens want to feed kids in low-decile schools and bring health and welfare services into those schools, and now Labour has gone back in time with something called Best Start, aka the old family benefit.

A family benefit that my parents cashed in to put a deposit on a house.

A family benefit my wife and I cashed in to buy a $300 heater just before the scheme was canned in 1981 (yes, times had changed).

But the family benefit idea is back, albeit on a diet. It will give families earning less than $150,000 a year $60 a week for each child, up until the child turns one. Or three, for the poorest half of families.

Still, better than nothing. Election bribe? You betcha. But so are those of the other parties. Will it work? Probably.

Even if it doesn't kick in until 2016, halfway through the next parliamentary term.

Even if David Cunliffe can't yet quite explain where the $270 million a year is going to come from.

What people will remember is the $60. A week. Cash. No vouchers, no ties. You'd never catch National giving money away just like that. This is the Labour of old. Vote for us, vote for us.

The Labour leader is right that the amount will make a difference. Some nappies, some baby food.

No mention it could just as easily go on even more not-so-decent food, or into a pokie machine.

No mention a 2 per cent rise in home mortgage rates will suck it all up either, but hey, that's likely to happen anyway.

So yes, as an election policy it's a good one, and it will make a difference for lower income families. But how oh how did they arrive at the $150,000 threshold? If this really is to assist the poor, why not lower the threshold and extend the benefits?

Oh, that's right, votes.

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- The Timaru Herald

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