National’s strong economic management over nine years in government meant that Labour inherited a growing economy awash with cash and a robust set of books, so it’s a pity they chose to go down their old familiar path of tax-and-spend, borrow-and-hope.
Net debt is going to be $10 billion higher than it would’ve been under National. Borrowing’s up and, despite promising no new taxes during the campaign, the government has introduced more than $2 billion of new taxes.
Somehow they’ve managed to spend all that extra money on less stuff: $3 billion on free university for the first year has resulted in 900 fewer students – that’s a fail. There’s a billion dollars for Winston’s diplomats and a swanky new embassy in Sweden but not the cheaper doctors’ visits that Labour promised – fail. Cancelling National’s tax cuts of a thousand dollars a year and introducing a double whammy fuel tax increase – fail. Even health spending, which Labour made a big song and dance about, is underwhelming: they’ve committed less money than National allocated in our last budget – epic fail.
Nor do the vulnerable get any comfort. It allocates no new money for the 60,000 New Zealanders living with dementia. Alzheimer’s NZ says it was “disappointed this Budget does not consider and take steps to address the impacts of the major dementia challenge facing New Zealand.”
Overall, as one commentator called it, “this is the biggest missed opportunity in a generation” and sadly, all the hard work Kiwis have put in over the last few years is at risk of being undone by this big spending, big borrowing coalition government.
It is truly a shame that they also neglected end of life care. We are fortunate to have top quality palliative care thanks to our local Hospice North Shore. The work its staff does is essential, allowing people with life-limiting illnesses to die in their own homes with dignity. As a former patron of Mary Potter Hospice and Hospice NZ, and chair of a government working party on the care of people who are dying, I strongly believe the compassionate approach would be to make a significant investment into world-class palliative care.
Which is why, after extensive consultation with sector groups, I’ve drafted the ‘Access to Palliative Care’ member’s bill which is currently in the ballot. It would amend the Health and Disability Act and put obligations on DHBs and the Minister of Health to enshrine universal access to palliative care as a right for all New Zealanders.
As Deputy Chair of the Justice select committee, I’ve been impressed by the quantity and quality of submissions on David Seymour’s euthanasia bill. More than 35,000 individual submitters have sent us their carefully detailed and well-reasoned viewpoints, the largest amount ever received by the NZ Parliament.
As a committee we have resolved to hear all three and a half thousand submitters who asked to submit in person and I’m determined to listen carefully to everyone’s views. It’s a mammoth task: we’ll be holding hearings around the country and to do the process justice we’ve now extended the deadline for the report back to the House from this September to March 2019.
Early analysis indicates a substantial number of the submitters are fearful about the lack of safeguards to protect the vulnerable from coercion and abuse.
These fears have been echoed by Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero, who’s stated that “the Bill undermines the position of disabled and vulnerable members of our community. It devalues their lives and poses significant risk to them.”