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Source: First Union

Tomorrow’s Budget 2022 is an opportunity to demonstrate Labour’s values in action and must address the high cost of living faced by working people while increasing investment in public services and committing to return key infrastructure like buses and ambulance services to public ownership, FIRST Union said today.
Dennis Maga, FIRST Union General Secretary, said that Budget 2022 will need to balance immediate challenges like lowering costs for households while ensuring that key social infrastructure is fit for the future.
“As we prepare for next year’s election, this Budget should reflect Labour’s original commitment to raise the standard of living for working people and shrink a growing wealth gap between the richest and the poorest,” said Mr Maga.
“With the cost of petrol again rising above $3 per litre, we hope to see the half-price bus fares scheme extended beyond June and a pathway towards free fares nationally. Free and universal public transport is an important step towards returning these services to public ownership in future.”
“We are pleased to see funding to support driver wages and conditions announced in the Climate Emergency Relief Fund earlier this week as a key component of meaningful climate action.”
Maga said that in the wake of the pandemic, a major boost to health funding is necessary to support existing public health spending.
“Free mental health support for those who need it is especially crucial following these two years of the pandemic, and free access is one of a number of existing health inequities.”
“An additionally significant and unexpected cost for many workers every year is dental care, and this Government could show its commitment to peoples’ wellbeing by making it free and universal, as it is in many other countries already.”
“With Health NZ reforms just months away from implementation, now is the right time to commit to bringing our ambulance services into our national health system and stop contracting them out.”
“An exhaustive wellbeing Budget would also address growing costs of living by implementing the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s recommendations to increase welfare support (based on recently updated figures by the Fairer Futures coalition), reducing the costs of Early Childhood Education, increasing the Winter Energy Payment and expanding funding for insulation programmes.”
Mr Maga said that despite significant increases to the minimum wage and welfare payments, the dial on wealth inequality had barely shifted in the last five years.
“In 2020 this Government was elected with an absolute majority, based on a mandate to significantly increase investment in New Zealand.”
“Workers’ efforts during the pandemic have kept the economy afloat and averted much of that spending, but there remain major social deficits that need to be addressed.”
“There is much more to be done to address longstanding issues around health, housing and climate action. This Budget will be an indication of how willing and how prepared this Government is to do what’s necessary and overdue,” said Mr Maga.