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May 20, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Budget

As the dulcet tones of Bill English rang out through the halls of Parliament last Thursday, we heard precisely how the Government would tinker with the economic levers for the next 12 months.

Bill believes that overseas investment, a growing economy and healthy competition will allow economic goodness to trickle down over all of us (and I apologise for mentioning Bill and trickling in the same sentence). Not only is he wrong, but he’s missing the point of being in government.

Since Bill and John took over in 2008, the things that are likely to have affected you have been the rise in GST, the cuts to postgrad student allowances, the freezing of the Student Allowance threshold, and the re-implementation of youth rates. They are all examples of a Government using its power to create change, but it isn’t change for the better. People are still leaving to Australia in droves, and we still have tens of thousands of children living in poverty. In real terms, we aren’t getting better.

Bill and John can talk about improving business confidence all they please, they can say that selling our assets reduces gross national debt, but that doesn’t help you. It doesn’t help me. Government is about helping the people of our country. How has this Government helped you?

Left-wing rhetoric in New Zealand is increasingly becoming focussed on the idea of ‘hands-on government’, about using the power of government to help you, in real terms, get ahead. The NZ Power announcement is a good example. So is KiwiBuild. So is the Greens’ rent-to-buy policy. While the Government continues to talk in abstract terms about reaching the promised “brighter future” through growth and investment, the opposition are proposing policies that don’t rely on any invisible hand; they just get in there and do the work.

There is potential for the next government to break the prevailing neoliberal dialogue that has dominated economic management in New Zealand, Australia and the UK for generations. To step away from third-way politics, to escape the invisible hand, and to implement policies that make a real difference.

So, as Bill vigorously uses an invisible hand to create his own trickle-down over this Budget, the opposition is hard at work devising hands-on policy that will make things better. Come 2014, prepare for Budgets that put you back at the heart of Government policy.

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