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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. Dr SHANE RETI (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government’s statements and actions?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Talofa lava. Yes, I do—in particular, our recently announced Budget that will secure New Zealand’s recovery from COVID-19. Budget 2021 strikes a careful balance between securing the economic recovery and keeping a lid on the debt that we took on during COVID-19 to protect lives and livelihoods. The Budget is a core part of helping us achieve our three goals for this term: to keep New Zealanders safe from COVID-19, to accelerate our recovery and rebuild, and to tackle our foundational challenges—in particular, housing affordability, climate change, and child wellbeing.

Dr Shane Reti: What measures did Budget 2021 take to address benefit dependency, and does she agree the only sustainable, long-term way to address poverty is through jobs, not benefits?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: There was and there has been a significant investment in supporting people into work through things like the Flexi-wage scheme. I’m particularly proud of Budget 2021’s reinstatement of the training incentive allowance for degree-level courses, taken away by that member’s party in 2009.

Dr Shane Reti: Can she confirm that Budget 2021 documents project that in four years’ time, there will be 60,000 more New Zealanders on the jobseeker benefit than when she became Prime Minister?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I can confirm is that the Budget projects that there will be 200,000 more New Zealanders in employment at the end of the forecast period, which is an excellent result as we come out of COVID-19.

Dr Shane Reti: Does she agree with Budget 2021 documents that show benefit increases are needed to stop more children slipping into poverty due to the increases in rent and cost of living that her Government has overseen?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What the Budget documents show about child poverty is that the Government has been able to reduce it by more than 40,000, and that the initiatives in the Budget will reduce it by a further 33,000 children being lifted out of poverty. Everybody on this side of the House recognises that there is always more to do to improve child wellbeing in New Zealand, but I’m extremely proud of what the Government has done in that regard.

Dr Shane Reti: Why did she claim benefit increases were about addressing Budgets passed 30 years ago, when this is simply reversing the cost of living increases caused by her Government’s policies over the past three years?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I completely reject the latter part of that question, and, with respect to the former part of it, what this Budget did—finally—was make sure that the damage done by that member’s party in the 1991 Budget was turned around so that now all benefits are of a value greater than they were when those cuts were made. If the member wants to stand up and defend the “mother of all Budgets”, by all means, go ahead.

Dr Shane Reti: Is she concerned that her Government’s policies will see more Kiwis moving to Australia to work, given their recent pro-growth Budget that delivered incentives for business investment?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, I’m not, and that’s because every indicator coming out of both the Australian and New Zealand Budgets shows that New Zealand is doing better. We’re going to be having higher growth rates. We’re going to see more people in employment. We’re going to see fewer people unemployed, and, at the same time, our deficit will be lower and our debt will be lower. The member should be proud of what New Zealand is doing.

Hon Chris Hipkins: Can the Prime Minister confirm that since the trans-Tasman bubble was opened up, more people have travelled from Australia to New Zealand than the other way?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Yes, I can, and I can understand that, given the major attractions that there are here in New Zealand. I once again ask the members opposite to actually look at the outcomes from the Australian Budget, and they’ll see that on every indicator, New Zealand is doing well. They should be proud of New Zealand, not running it down.