The Labour Government has announced their first budget – and I’m sorry to say it spells bad news for the readers of Coast & Country News. It was a predictable tax and spend budget that was full of broken promises and misguided priorities.
On the campaign trail Labour explicitly said: “There will be no new taxes” but already we’ve seen the introduction of $2.2 billion worth when you add up their regional fuel taxes, fuel excise, GST on online goods – and this is all before their Tax Working Group reports back. Borrowing more and increasing taxes during a period of strong economic conditions makes absolutely no sense. It is reckless, puts our economy at risk if we experience a shock, and undoes all the hard work New Zealanders have done over the last few years.
They say they have no money to deliver on their big ticket campaign promises like 1800 new sworn officers over three years, which has turned into 220 new cops over five years when you take away back office staff and the 880 new cops funded by National in 2017 that they are trying to count. But they managed to find an extra $1 billion for Winston’s diplomats, an untargeted $2.8 billion first year fees-free tertiary education that actually delivered 900 less students, and a $3 billion slush fund for Shane Jones to dole out as he pleases.
In my portfolio of climate change there was more money for setting up extra layers of bureaucracy, but no surety of contract for the people on the front line working to reduce agricultural emissions in a way that doesn’t gut the industry like the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.
At the time of writing this column we’ve just had confirmation that Mycoplasma Bovis has been detected in Cambridge, just over the hill from my electorate of Bay of Plenty. The Government is running around telling anyone who will listen that biosecurity is underfunded, yet they haven’t allocated any significant new money to the area – a paltry $9.3 million. Half of the $18.4 million National invested in our 2017 Budget. This makes a mockery of their rhetoric.
This outbreak is bringing back memories of the Psa-V disease that shook our kiwifruit industry a few years back. One of the key lessons learnt from that experience is government cannot be too proactive when it comes to their response, and that communication is vital. Farmers on the ground need clarity about what the response is and what the process is moving forward. The Minister for Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, has really dropped the ball on this.