Editorial approval for Budget

May 16, 2014

From south to north:

The Southland Times writes of felines and finances:

As the budget debate was winding down in Parliament yesterday the most popular story on the Stuff website was still “Cat saves boy from dog”.

Bill English will hardly be distraught. He knows this is not an election-losing Budget.

It’s the first since 2008 to project a surplus. Technically, it is perfectly possible for a Government to be rolled in an election year while economic figures are doing OK. Jenny Shipley managed it while running budget surpluses and with economic growth knocking around 3.5 to 4 per cent.

But the public had emphatically soured on the politics of her administration whereas the Key Government, for all that it has had a wretched couple of weeks, would still need to subside spectacularly to find itself in such straits.

English has found himself in the fairly happy situation of not needing a budget that would quicken any pulses . . . merely keep them steady. This one will surely manage that.  . .

Australia has done English the very considerate favour of delivering a gasper of a hard-times Budget just days before his. So if it was a test, we’d be the winners, right? And who doesn’t like beating the Aussies? Big tick for the Nats, then?

Truth to tell those contrasting fortunes are indeed likely to accelerate the net immigration inflow of more than 38,000 this year. That’s assuming people have been paying attention, what with that fabulous cat footage.

 

The ODT calls it a clever document:

This was the Budget that National – right from the time of its re-election in 2011 – would have hoped it could produce leading into this year’s election.

Mr English has not swayed from his path of fiscal restraint. Sure, he has had to borrow heavily during the past six years, but not to the extent the country plunged into recession.

Now, the return to surplus gives options such as paying down debt.

The careful management of the country’s finances by Mr English, and his team of ministers, has helped ensure New Zealand has been mainly immune from the worst of the global decline affecting Europe, parts of Asia, the United States and, latterly, Australia.

Economic growth has been one of the highest in the OECD and, for once, all Treasury indicators are pointing in a positive direction.

This was a Budget of few surprises, but with enough good news to count for something. . .

It will enable Prime Minister John Key to go into the election campaign confident his 2008 promises of fiscal restraint, providing the best care for families, and delivering a better public service have not been compromised.

Opposition parties will have to promise big to counter National, and if they do, the onus will be on them to say exactly how they will fund those promises. . .

If he is looking for a document to define his legacy as Finance Minister, Budget 2014 is a good place to start.

There is some criticism the Budget is too conservative, but that personifies Mr English, who learnt the trade from former finance minister Sir William Birch. And would most New Zealanders rather have a gambler as a finance minister, or a safe pair of hands?

The ”Boy from Dipton” has lived up to his reputation as a ”conservative” politician in every way.

The Timaru Herald opines on the Budget highlight:

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. . .

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

The best thing about it?

It’s not Australia’s.

 

 

The Press writes of seeking the recipe for growth:

When he delivered his first Budget six years ago, Finance Minister Bill English faced a grim prospect. Even though the global financial crisis had not yet hit, the economy had gone into recession some time beforehand.

Government debt was at a reasonable level, but spending in Labour’s last years in office had ballooned and, according to Treasury projections, the Government faced deficits for a decade or more ahead.

National had been elected promising responsible Government finances and a stronger economy, but without changes those looked unlikely.

English smiled yesterday as he took delivery of the bound Budget document and well he might. By delivering a surplus, albeit a tiny one, several years ahead of what he had forecast several years ago, today’s Budget will be brighter than even he expected it to be by now.

Since it came to office six years ago, the Government’s core promises have been that it would deliver a stronger economy, responsible public finances and a better public service.

In 2011, after the earthquakes, it added a promise to rebuild Christchurch. Those pledges have become a mantra and can be expected to be repeated today.

Without engaging in a wholesale slash and burn, it has kept public spending under control while maintaining services.

So far as it is possible for a government to claim credit for the performance of the economy generally, National can be pleased with the prospect of growth possibly hitting more than 4 per cent this year. The trick will be to make that growth enduring. . .

In spite of the benign aggregate position it should not be forgotten that, as an Otago University survey reiterated last week, New Zealand still has significant pockets of deprivation.

There are likely to be numberless reasons for them but a growing economy delivering opportunity and jobs offers part of the solution for sustainably dealing with them.

The Marlborough Express writes the jobs challenge continues:

. . . Finance Minister Bill English told Parliament the realisation of job growth forecasts depends on the confidence of businesses to invest more capital and employ more people.

“That is where new jobs come from. They do not come from the Easter bunny.”

The Easter bunny didn’t get a mention when English unveiled his sixth Budget yesterday.

The test will be how much his programme can lift confidence and stimulate growth to create the environment that will put priority on employment growth.

The Dominion Post notes the crowd goes mild:

This is a deliberately bland and even boring Budget. The Government has clearly decided that grey and safe is its best hope in election year. The only surprise was free doctors’ visits for under-13-year-olds. Middle New Zealand will welcome it, as it will many of the other, carefully telegraphed, handouts. More paid parental leave: who could object? A bit more help with childcare costs: why not?

National has made a virtue of small gifts: it shows that the party is “responsible” and not spending money it doesn’t have. And that is why the $372m surplus is intended to have such political heft. The amount is piffling within a $70b budget, and would make no economic difference if it was an equally mouse-sized deficit.

But the surplus is the signal that a caring government has brought us home safely after a nasty trip through recession. And if we carry on being careful and good, the Government says, life will carry on improving. Finance Minister Bill English gave a hint of tax cuts to come, but waffled when pressed. So that means National is keeping its tax promises till closer to the election.

The real question is: is this all the voters want – thrift, mild rewards, steady-as-she-goes? The dissenters have pointed to National’s noticeable lack of flair and imagination. No big new policies, no bold new directions, no surprises.

But that is what the John Key Government is, and so far it has won elections. In tough times, the Government has spent freely to keep the ship afloat, and then it has slowly brought it to the fiscal shore. Now it welcomes us to dry land. . .

Much bolder moves will be needed, including a capital gains tax. But National’s caution here is a drawback, not an advantage. Sometimes problems are serious and need action. National seems to believe it will be enough to cut red tape and remove some of the planning obstacles in the way of housing. It won’t.

At present there is little rage about poverty, inequality and the housing crisis. These problems are raw and real but voters are patient and only a minority of voters now seem to actually hate National. It will probably take another term before a majority is truly fed up with Key and his band. In the meantime, this bland document may be a document for the times.

The Manawatu Standards call it a Budget comfortable fit for many Kiwis

There may be little bling to Finance Minister Bill English’s sixth Budget but, like a pair of sensible shoes, it will make for a comfortable fit for many New Zealanders.

It was a budget light on ambition, heavy on prudence, in its commitment towards a modest $372 million surplus, but with a few policies bearing a distinctive Labour hue to them.

Its “steady as she goes” tenor does shrewdly mine the Kiwi ethos. Yes, a tax cut would have been nice, but they’ve balanced the books and haven’t forgotten the children. So she’ll be right.

It is a budget good enough to serve its purpose, whether that is pragmatic progress towards further surpluses and the lure of an eventual tax cut or simply placating middle New Zealand until after the general election in September is a matter of perspective. . .

The NZ Herald says the Budget steers safe course in rough waters:

The Treasury gave the show away in the Budget’s supporting documents, mentioning that while tax revenue is running at a lower level than expected, some of the Government’s intended spending has been “rephased” to produce the surplus it has promised.

Opponents can call it a trick of “smoke and mirrors” but the verdict that matters comes from credit agencies. They are unlikely to be concerned. Spending rephased is spending we might never see unless surpluses can be maintained. . . .

The Budget’s best feature is the value Bill English seems to be getting for little extra spending on public services. Departments know the results he wants and seem to be delivering them without complaint from providers or the public.

They have stopped demanding endless increases in funds and he shared the credit with them yesterday for his surplus.

Doctored it may be, but it will get better.

The Herald’s last point is a pertinent one and one of the National governments successes – getting better pubic services for less money.

 


Editorials on referendum

August 25, 2009

The Southland Times says Let’s reassure parents:

It’s one thing to accept that police have been very careful about the way the law is being interpreted, right now. But there’s no getting around it that a great many parents remain worried about a wider anti-smacking agenda and that the sands may shift underneath parents in future, and a much harder line be taken by the law as it now stands.

Underscoring that view is the widespread public recognition of the distaste from many in the so-called PC corridors of power, notably the law’s original drafter Sue Bradford, for any sort of smacking. It’s a distaste this newspaper shares . . .

The explicit intention of the law’s final form was that nobody could commit the sort of assault against a child that would previously have landed them in court and rightly so in the eyes of mainstream New Zealanders but then raise the arcane previous defence that they were within the rights of parental correction. That defence was removed under the Bradford legislation, and so it should have been.

But, okay. Maybe the existing law does need to be refined to give greater assurance that normal parental guardianship and discipline will still be the preserve of the parents.

It’s got the bit about reasonable force wrong – that’s still allowed for prevention.

The Press says the vote was a fiasco:

The question posed was flawed, the participation of voters low, the campaign unengaging, the cost of the exercise prohibitive and the results inconsequential. In short, the referendum was a fiasco.

The question was flawed, though its intent was clear it has enabled the governmetn to address the result without changing the law. But the turnout wasn’t low and the cost was the fault of the previous Prime Minsiter who decreed the referendum couldn’t take place with last year’s election.

The Nelson Mail says politicians need to resist mob pressure:

Nelson MP Nick Smith was on the money in suggesting the anti-smacking referendum result reflected a strong reaction against the “nanny state”.

The overwhelming “no” vote nearly 90 per cent, with a turnout of more than half of this country’s registered voters is also a slap in the face for children’s rights and anti-violence advocates. It delivers an unfortunate message about New Zealand’s underlying conservatism and represents an important challenge to the country’s politicians as they consider how to respond to it.

The Dominon Post editorialises  In the Dominion Post Richard Long says: on making an ass of our laws:

Even a 100 per cent vote against the anti-smacking law would not have made it possible to revoke.

It  might be frightening the  daylights out of decent, law- abiding middle class parents, but  now it is on the statute books we  are stuck with it. To do otherwise  would be signalling open slather  on kids. It would be saying  whacking is fine.

David Cohen asks is an editorial smack part of good part of good media discipline?:

With the votes now counted and an emphatic result in, the biggest loser in the recently concluded child-discipline referendum appears to be the news media.
 
Almost 90 percent of people who participated in the citizens-initiated referendum asking New Zealanders whether smacking should be illegal voted No. An entirely unsurprising result, that. . .
 
 
A significant aspect in much of the media coverage in the lead-up to the referendum was the almost uniformly negative press accorded to potential No voters.
 
He says almsot everything in the NZ Herald was desisgned to put No voters in the worst possible light, but the Herald editorial is the only post-vote one which wants a change in the law.
 
It says parliament should act to define force:
 
The people have spoken and the Government is obliged to act. The vote against the criminalisation of parental “correction” is too decisive to be ignored. The referendum question may have been biased by its reference to “good” parental correction but it is doubtful that anyone who wanted to outlaw smacking was misled by it. . .
 
This whole debate has disguised a high level of consensus about the place of violence in child discipline. Before the referendum the Herald commissioned a DigiPoll survey of parents . . .  It found the number who smack their children at least once a week has dropped drastically in the past decade to just 8.5 per cent. The number who never smack – just 10 per cent in the previous decade – has risen to 36 per cent.

Yet 85.4 per cent of that same sample intended to vote against the criminalisation of smacking. Plainly today’s parents have found better ways to bring up children but overwhelmingly they do not want the law to forbid their resort to force if they need it.

The law does not forbid it, and never has.
 
It too is wrong on this last point. The ammendment to Section 59 permits reasonable force for prevention but makes it illegal to smack a child for the purposes of correction.
 
Another point several editorials made is that there are much more important things to worry about. They are right, but that won’t make this issue go away.
 
UPDATE:
The Marlborough Express says Costly referendum a waste of money:
 
The law was brought in as there was a clear problem defining what reasonable force was. In a climate of despair over repeated child abuse in this country the law made it clear that it was not okay to hit children.
 
But it didn’t. It still allows reasonable force for prevention.
 
The Dominion Post says Smacking vote carries clout:
 
The question is loaded and ambiguous. It presupposes that smacking is part of good parenting –  a debatable point – and ignores the fact that the existing law specifically permits the use of reasonable force, including smacking, in certain circumstances.

Those circumstances are fairly comprehensive. They include: to prevent harm to children or others, to stop offensive or disruptive behaviour and to stop criminal behaviour.

At least one paper understands the current law still allows the reasonable force which the Act’s proponents – and a lot of its opponents – wanted to get rid of.

 
 
 

Fireworks restrictions racist?

October 30, 2008

The Marlborough Express  laments the tight restrictions on the sale of fireworks prevents the Indian adding a sparkle to their Diwali festival.

Surely it’s racist to allow the sale of fireworks to enable people to mark Guy Fawkes, a celebration from one imported culture, and not Diwali, a festival from another?


But Miss . . .

September 26, 2008

The esteemed poet lauretae Jam Hipkins has lost is heart to the teacher who is moonlighting as a prostitute:

I love your lacy algebra

You ease my present tense

I regard your pleasure’s syntax

As a meagre recompense

For the poetry you’ve taught me

Writ on scented, satin sheet

In our one-on-one night classes

Where we shared our rhyming feet.

If my woodwork is improving

If, perchance, I top your class

It is you, sweet Cupid’s tutor

Who has shown me how to pass

Small wonder, then in Flaxmere

With no teacher of the night

That lonely boys’ testosterone

Can fuel a fiercesome fight.

But do not give them homework

Save love’s lessons just for me

You are the moon’s curriculum

You are my chemistry

If I’m A plus in the boudoir

Then I thank your lesson plan

I went in in short trousers

And I staggered out a man!

“Well, what do you think?” the laureate pleaded. “Will it work?”

“Perhaps,” I said sadly.

“But you may have to pay her to listen.”

You can read the rest of Jim Hopkins’ column here.

For other views on the issue:  Read the rest of this entry »


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