Amidst the deluge of data, accounting tricks and astronomical sounding numbers that you will see in the Budget next week, there is one critical thing to look for - people.
Ultimately a Budget is about a government's priorities and where they lie when it comes to spending the money they are charged with looking after on our behalf. The question to ask is who this Budget will be for?
- Will it continue to grow the gap between those at the very top and the rest of New Zealanders or will it turn that around and give opportunities to people in the middle?
- Will it have a plan to create decent jobs for the 144,000 unemployed Kiwis or are those people collateral damage to the ideology of the government?
- Will it invest in the next generation of New Zealanders or allow them to be the first in history to be worse off than their parents?
The people I will be looking out for in the Budget are:
- The young couple I met in Auckland recently, a paediatric nurse and a teacher. Freshly back from their OE, keen to build their life in New Zealand and play their part in building our country’s future. But like so many of their generation two people working hard are struggling to make ends meet in our largest city. The idea of buying a house is a remote dream. A true test of this Budget will be what it does to turn around the fact that we now have the lowest rate of home ownership in sixty years and give this young couple and thousands like them a shot at the Kiwi dream.
The elderly constituent in my electorate who has faced months of pain and anguish as she has had specialist appointments cancelled, re-referrals and delayed operations. Labour asked Infometrics, an independent economic agency, to work out how far behind the Health Budget has fallen in the last eight years. It turns out we are $1.7 billion short of where the country needs to be just to keep up with inflation, the ageing population and other demographic changes. This is really hitting home in the health sector, with more cost cutting on the way and morale at an all-time low. We need to get back to where we were in the last Labour government and have regular funding increases to give us the strong and sustainable health system we need.
The parents and children from my local schools to see if the government intends to reverse the cuts to funding of our schools. According to Ministry of Education figures funding has decreased by $150 per pupil in the last year. In the last year the amount of money being asked from parents in fees (or voluntary donations as they are euphemistically known) has increased by 10% at the same time as inflation has been at record lows. We need a Budget that restores the basic right to a quality free education for all our young people.
And it is that next generation of New Zealanders that the Budget should be delivering for.
Labour wants to see a Budget that takes a long term view. One where we invest in infrastructure, new and added value industries that will create the decent work of the future; one where we all pay our fair share so that everyone in our community gets a fair go; a Budget that backs the Kiwi Dream of the opportunities afforded by a home, a good education and strong health system; a Budget that is not about playing with numbers but about investing in people.