2 May 2017

Tallying up the Bill

From The House, 10:35 pm on 2 May 2017

The budget is not only an event in which the Minister of Finance announces the Government’s spending plan.  It’s a process that takes months and never quite finishes.

Labour MP Chris Hipkins

Labour MP Chris Hipkins Photo: VNP / Phil Smith


Plans change, unforeseen events happen, disasters occur… more money gets spent by some departments, and sometimes on things not initially intended.


Changes to the budget plan are often made with supplementary estimates and imprest supply bills (interim supply authority). Shifts in spending can also be made through orders in council (by agreement of the cabinet and the Governor General), rather than via the authority of Parliament.


So as the financial year nears its end (i.e. nowish), the Government has to come back to Parliament and tidy up those adjustments - getting them all retrospectively approved by the House.


Basically - it’s the Government saying to Parliament “...you know how we said the groceries were going to cost $200, we actually spent $220. Most of the extra was on beer. We know it was wasn’t on the shopping list, but it was on sale and so, uhm, is that okay with everyone?”

National MP Simon Bridges

Simon Bridges had his first day managing the House for the government today - as Leader of the House Photo: RNZ / Mei Heron


The debate over the unbudgeted spending will take 10 hours and occupy a few hours each day this week and likely continue into next week. The debate is broken into ten themes:


• Economic Development and Infrastructure Sector

• Education and Science Sector

• Environment Sector

• External Sector

• Finance and Government Administration Sector

• Health Sector

• Justice Sector

• Māori, other Populations and Cultural Sector

• Primary Sector

• Social Development and Housing Sector


Each party gets an allocation of time to speak during the debate, and to some extent each party will decide for itself which themes to focus their debating firepower on.  


As you’ll hear in the audio on this page, there was a fair bit of fire being directed on the first day at government funding of education. You can hear from Simon Bridges on being made Leader of the House, and on education: Jian Yang, Chris Hipkins,Catherine Delahunty, Nikki Kaye and Tracy Martin.