Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff says the Government’s first budget shows it backs the right priorities, and could achieve even more by raising revenue and freeing fiscal constraints.
“I am very impressed by what the Government and Finance Minister have achieved today with pretty limited cash flow. In the long run, if they are to fully achieve the platform they were elected on, they must accept we need more tax.
“It’s simple maths. The last Government’s tax cuts for the wealthiest have cost us billions in revenue, and this Government urgently needs to refill the accounts. “The coalition Government clearly has their spending priorities right. Health, affordable housing and quality education are what working people want more of, not irresponsible tax handouts. Kiwis understand that – it’s why the majority of us say we want more taxes to support our public services.
“Without strong education and health systems staffed by well valued and highly skilled professionals, we can’t enjoy the stable society and high quality of life we should expect.
“People delivering valuable services like teachers and nurses have borne the brunt of the last 9 years of fiscal conservatism, and most people think they deserve a better deal. We know that 9 years of significant and hidden underfunding, amounting to 2.7 billion in health alone can’t be fixed in one Budget cycle. It’s encouraging though that the Government is starting to properly fund the cost of a growing and ageing population and fully funding new initiatives in health. This is the first time in many years that health spending has risen faster than cost and population pressures.
“Housing is a basic need and human right, but for too many New Zealand families, that’s been inaccessible – what should be family homes have been casinos for financial speculation. The start of the Kiwibuild scheme is a positive move, with significant funding for redeveloping vacant crown land, as is the promise of 1600 new state houses this year. However, with over 70,000 new houses needed right now and half of them in Auckland, an even further expanded housing package is needed.
“It’s commendable to restore the basic services we all rely on that have fallen into disrepair – this is in line with moving to a wellbeing budget framework. It shows this Government is in tune with Kiwi values.
“To realise this vision, the Government will need to increase overall revenue in a way that supports struggling working people and local businesses. We’ll back this Government to raise revenue and get on with fixing our country, and we know most New Zealanders will too.”