I'm trying to get lots done at work today, so we'll see how this goes. Chances are you'll get better live-blogging at The Standard, but I can't see that from here, so I'm listening to the Budget Speech on Radio NZ National and will list the bits that occur to me as possibly important. Feel free to add your thoughts in comments as we go!
2.06pm Mentions that they will maintain Working For Families, does this mean the current levels are safe?
2.10pm Lots of waffling about the Bad Times we are going through. Setting the stage for a Grey Budget.
2.14pm "We will continue to support public services and help NZers through the downturn..." Bill English setting out the aims of the Budget.
2.15pm Going over past measures they have brought in eg bank guarantees, JobStart, small business relief package, state housing upgrades, roading projects, 9 day working fortnight, increasing education options for young people, national cycleway (big cheer for the last).
2.17pm Thorough review of Govt regulation, incl RMA, Overseas Investment Act, review of Electricity industry, telco review, water management and environmental review, building act reviews. Acknowledges Rodney Hide's role as Minister for Regulatory Reform.
2.19pm National infrastructure plan to be delivered by end of 2009.
2.20pm Commentary (sorry missed who) says they will be spending $3B more this year, however still quite constrained.
2.22pm Anne Tolley has a release out about ECE, basically saying they will extend the 20 Hours scheme to playcentres, kohanga reo and 5 yos, and removing the 6 hour daily limit.
2.24pm $1.45B new spending apparently. English states: "Considerably less than in recent years... it would have been imprudent to continue spending [at the same rate as recent years]" Reviews have saved money, which has been redirected.
2.28pm $70M to increase health staffing for electives. Also increase training places in health. Money for increased maternity needs. Increase elective operating theatre capacity.
2.29pm Started talking about education. He's not talking much detail, v frustrating. Schools operating grant goes up, but the release says it's just the level of inflation?
2.32pm Health reporter notes extra money for medicines but no extra money announced for increasing number of midwives in training. Gayle Woods notes education part of Budget more about what's not there. Smallest increases in many years for schools' operations grants, little for tertiary institutions. Community education given least. Reduction in money for university salaries, also getting rid of a lot of student scholarships and training programmes.
2.33pm Primary Sector Innovation programme to be launched for agriculture.
2.34pm Law and order a priority. 600 more police by 2011. Half in Counties Manukau, rest spread nationally. Also focusing on crime proceeds and laundering. Money for community probation, improve quality of parole management. Increased prison capacity and planning for further potential expansion (that means more prisons).
2.36pm Public sector will face smaller or non-existent increases in the future. "considered decisions now will avoid harsher decisions later"
2.37pm Increased investment in roading. Big claps. Surely this is not news? $115M for new trains (!) and $90M additional support for Kiwirail (no claps for this). Internet broadband roll-out funding (lots of boring numbers).
2.38pm Sounds like that is it in terms of the lollies? Now talking about debt management. "There will be ongoing restraint on future spending increases". $1.1B in 2010, +2% per year in future budgets, for extra spending in coming years.
2.39pm Govt's commitment to future Super contributions is absolute. Big claps, biggest to date, some heckling too?
2.40pm Suspending contributions to Superannuation Fund. Here's the Govt's Fact Sheet about the Super Fund.
2.43pm 2010 and 2011 tax cuts deferred. Lots of heckling. No clapping. Talks about the total value of over $1B of tax cuts delivered since being elected. Here's the Fact Sheet. So that's a broken promise. RNZN's political editor points out it was as late as February that English guaranteed them.
2.45pm I note Richard Worth has a release up about $2.4M more to fight child pornography.
2.47pm "This Budget ensures NZ maintains one of the lowest debt levels and one of the strongest balance sheets in the OECD."
2.49pm Commends the Budget to the House.