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May 20, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Steady As She Goes

Normally I have all week to write my column, but I decided to see what came out of the Budget, and write about that instead. I need not have bothered. Midterm budgets are always boring in our three-year-term parliamentary system. The Budget after an election is usually taken up with legislating new bribes for the electorate, while the Budget just before election is taken up with the promises of new, grander bribes for the electorate, with your own money. The poor budget in the middle year of the electoral cycle is loved by no one.

So any big changes for students? Not really. If you are over 40, you are now limited to a maximum of 120 weeks (about four years of full-time study) of Student Allowance. Those over 65 will no longer receive Student Allowance at all. Labour in the few hours after the Budget has already starting spinning this as an attack on retraining. If someone starts studying for a BA at age 65, 68 when they finish, 69 if they do Honours, how likely are they to re-enter the workforce? I will let you answer that one. You may think I am a heartless bastard who doesn’t want your gran studying Classics as their retirement time-filler, but somebody has to be.

Bill English delivered the Budget in a sober, understated way. In what was a fairly forgettable budget, there were a few highlights (read, new spending), that the Government wants you to notice. There is a package to makes houses more affordable, action on child poverty (though never enough for the Greens), and rule changes for banks. Not exactly super-exciting stuff. The IRD will also be clamping down on dodgy property practices. The major bribe is that ACC levies will be reduced by 40 per cent, reducing costs for small- to medium-sized enterprises. Anything that reduces costs on business is an excellent measure. For me, it is the actual highlight of the budget.

David Shearer then got up in the house, and proceeded to make a whole bunch of terrible casino- and gambling-related jokes. The Prime Minister then wiped the floor with him, as expected. Russel Norman then made some good points about government debt. Then Winston Peters got up and began to play with a toy mouse in a small miniature treadmill. I am not joking.* I turned off the TV at this point.

Sometimes Parliament can lapse into farce. Budget day was one of those days.



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