21 May 2015

Govt accused of hitting panic button

7:36 pm on 21 May 2015

The Government has hit the panic button for its seventh Budget in a desperate attempt to look like they're taking action to reduce our shameful child poverty rates, Labour leader Andrew Little says.

Andrew Little grilling Bill English's 2015 Budget in parliament house.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Today's Budget gave with one hand and took with the other, Mr Little said.

"Lifting benefits is important but at the peak of the economic cycle all incomes should be rising," he said.

"Helping lift our most vulnerable people shouldn't have to come at the cost of those just a couple of rungs up the ladder - young savers and single parents are bearing the cost of these changes."

Read more stories on Budget 2015

The Government was only tinkering by taking away the $1000 KiwiSaver kickstart and imposing additional work obligations on solo parents, which would add to childcare costs, Mr Little said.

On housing, he said the Government had been a bystander for seven long years as spiralling Auckland house prices locked a generation out of the dream of homeownership.

"Now they're promising just $52 million to make Auckland land available for housing. That's only enough for 200 homes and it's a one-off.

"National must guarantee truly affordable homes are built on this land."

Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson said the Budget was long on broken promises, short on vision and one that failed to reach surplus.

"The years of neglect leave their twin deficits of ideas and money as the ultimate legacy of this Budget," he said.

"There is no plan to boost growth, support business and create the jobs and opportunities needed in the new economy."

Metiria Turei giving her 2015 Budget Speech to the house, parliament.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the Budget did not offer the solution to child poverty.

"John Key could have kept his promise to tackle child poverty but he chose instead to do the bare minimum."

As well, the increases to benefits families were getting would be eroded in many cases by reductions in other payments, Ms Turei said.

"Increases to benefits are more than 40 years overdue, so it would have been great if parents could keep more of what's already a stingy amount.

"Forcing the parents of toddlers into work is not a solution to poverty."

The National Government had spent the past six years governing in the interests of the few, Ms Turei said.

"We welcome the increase for some beneficiaries in this Budget but it is no solution to child poverty."

Winston Peters giving his 2015 Budget speech.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the Budget did nothing to solve any of the pressing problems facing the country.

"This Government is in deeper, the surplus is always tomorrow and the balance of payments deficit is worsening," he said.

"What does that mean? Well mum, if you're spending far too much money that's coming into the household, you and your family are going to go broke, and so is New Zealand."

an advocate for beneficiaries says the Government is giving with one hand and take away with the other.

But Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the Budget was delivering "goodies" - and that his party could take some of the credit.

"I'm very humble but not today. I'm ready to rumble today because the Maori Party has helped deliver some goodies to the people of this country," he said.

Little sense

Beneficiary Advocacy Federation spokesperson Paul Blair said put together, the measures made little sense.

Sole parents on a benefit would be expected to be available for part-time work once their youngest child turned three, while all beneficiaries with part-time work obligations would be expected to find work for at least 20 hours a week.

"The $25 is taken back straight away because of the 50 percent sanction on your benefit, if you can't make it to job interview with a three-year-old, a five-year-old and an eight-year-old to look after," he said.

"This cynical move is disgusting."

Mangere East Family Service Centre head Peter Sykes said the $25 would mean little for struggling families who were already overwhelmed.

"Most will go straight into just power, maybe some debt reduction but $25 a week really is a token thing.

"It's the people we don't see, who don't come forward, who don't ask for help, that are causing me the greatest concern in Mangere."

Dunedin mother-of-two Olive McRae agree, saying the Government's plan to increase work obligations for sole parents on a benefit would not solve a thing and was the wrong way to tackle poverty.

"Parents who are pushed out with very young children at home, pushed out into a job market where there isn't any jobs, you're at the bottom of the tier so you're on a minimum wage job," she said.

"It's not actually lifting whanau out of poverty at all. All it's doing is putting increased pressure on already-stretched families."

A Christchurch sole parent agree, saying pushing parents into work when their children were at a younger age was the wrong way to go.

Mother-of-four McKayla, who did not give her last name, said most part-time work available for parents was in the evenings, and the cost of baby sitters could be prohibitive.

"I'm a hard worker, I've always worked in some form or another while being on a benefit," she said.

"I work about 10 hours a week and am looking to reduce those hours because I'm unable to et work during the day, when my children are away at school, so I'm away in the evening and it's affecting our home life," she said.

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