There is nothing in Grant Robertson's 'mini budget' to suggest that this Labour-New Zealand First coalition government will be in any way 'transformative' - as Jacinda Ardern has claimed.
WHILE SOME Labour liberals will predictably enthuse about Finance Minister Grant Robertson's 'mini budget', it is also being applauded on the right. A conservative columnist like Aubrey Young of the NZ Herald has wrote of the 'stunning impact' of the family's package which, the government claims, will lift 88,000 children out of poverty. Young seems to believe that but, then, her column has appeared on the day that another NZ Herald columnist, Toby Manhire, has decided that 2017 was 'Ardern's year beyond a shadow of a doubt'. The cheerleading is reminiscent of what John Key used to receive from the newspaper.
I'm sure Martyn Bradbury of The Daily Blog is, right now, writing an angry column lambasting the NZ Herald for its obvious political bias.
While Grant Robertson might claim his mini-budget is 'transformative' it is only transformative in the sense that 385,000 families will receive an extra $75 a week, while a further 365,000 can expect an extra $39 a week and another 650,000 families will gain about $14 a week extra. (Note: If you are single and poor you get nothing).
While this will be welcome for families under considerable economic hardship, it will do nothing to fundamentally alter an economy in which the country's two wealthiest people own the same amount as the poorest 30 percent in New Zealand and the top 20 percent of households hold about 70 percent of the country's total household net wealth. Such economic and political change requires a government being bold and imaginative - and overturning the neoliberal regime. But conservative Grant Robertson, waving his 'Fiscal Responsibility Rules' around, ain't touching that.
Similarly Robertson has made great play of the fact that around one million people - including all superannuitants - will be eligible for a "Winter Energy Payment" of up to $450 a year, cash in hand. But that's just money that will briefly pass through the hands of its recipients on its way to the bulging bank accounts of the power companies and probably greater dividends for the shareholders.
If Grant Robertson was being truly 'transformative' he would nationalise the power companies - just like U.K Labour intends to do - and run them as social services providing cheap and affordable power for everyone. He could even provide the elderly with free power if he wanted. But, once again, Robertson is only prepared to go as far as alleviate some of the economic hardship of neoliberalism, not overturn the rigged economy itself.
None of this comes as any surprise to those of us who never believed that a Jacinda Ardern led government would be anything other than routinely centrist. For some Labour supporters this will be enough. But for other Labour supporters, looking for something more than more of the same, then Grant Robertson's mini budget, essentially a glimpse into the next three years, will be a major disappointment. But how on earth could they have expected anything more from a man who once declared that U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was 'unelectable' and that his party's left wing policies 'would not work in New Zealand'?