New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has sent a mother who featured on the front cover of her Budget booklet a personal message – after discovering she had moved to Australia.
Vicky Freeman had struggled to pay rent in Auckland and moved across the Tasman to live on the Gold Coast with her nine-year-old daughter, Ruby-Jean.
An image of her with her girl featured on the front cover New Zealand’s ‘Wellbeing Budget’ booklet.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has send a mother who featured on the front cover of her Budget booklet a personal message – after discovering she had moved to Australia
Noticing her old Getty stock image had been used to sell the Budget, Ms Freeman messaged Ms Ardern, the leader of a minority government, asking her on Instagram why her image was used.
To her astonishment, the 38-year-old Labour Prime Minister replied.
‘Simple reason really – happiness. You both looked really happy,’ she said.
From her new based in southern Queensland, Ms Freeman answered: ‘We are.’
Under New Zealand Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s second Budget, Kiwi taxpayers will be spending $26.5billion over the next four years on tackling suicide rates, child poverty, homelessness and domestic violence.
He announced the nation would redefine its measures of success beyond just economic indicators.
‘We are not just relying on gross domestic product, but also how we are improving the wellbeing of our people,’ Mr Robertson said on Thursday.
Vicky Freeman had struggled to pay rent in Auckland and moved across the Tasman to live on the Gold Coast with her nine-year-old daughter, Ruby-Jean. Despite that, an image of her and Ruby featured on the front cover of the ‘Wellbeing Budget’ booklet
Noticing her old Getty stock image had been used to sell the Budget, Ms Freeman messaged Ms Ardern, the leader of a minority Labour government, asking her on Instagram why her image was used
Australians have criticised the prospect of higher taxes and national debt.
Conservative commentator Rita Panahi told Sydney radio broadcaster Steve Price the big-spending would hurt Labour’s re-election chances after just one term in office.
‘This sort of silliness impresses some of the people sometimes for a little period but you eventually get found out and I think she’s going to get found out,’ she said.
‘It’s just going to be very ugly at the next election.’
Panahi also slammed the plan to let people live in public housing long-term regardless of their circumstances.
‘If you’re earning a decent salary then you’ve got other options, that government-subsidised housing should be for those who can’t care for themselves,’ she said.
‘Some of the stuff they’re talking about is just kooky… when you look at the substance often there’s not much there.’
The new budget will see Ms Ardern splash $26.5billion over the next four years on tackling suicide rates, child poverty, homelessness and domestic violence
The high-spending budget has attracted attention across the globe – and has been savaged by critics amid fears it will lead to national debt and tax increases. Pictured are Greens leader James Shaw, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been criticised for her ‘wellness budget’ and ‘unrealistic’ climate change targets
New Zealand conservative commentator Mike Hosking said the centre-left government’s budget was a ‘marketing exercise that no one has fallen for’.
Budget ‘hack’ actually a government bungle
When parts of Jacinda Ardern’s budget were leaked by the opposition ahead of its release on Thursday, it led to cries of hacking.
In fact, the row became so bitter that the police were called to investigate.
Officers discovered the ‘hack’ was actually the result of bungling by Ardern’s own government which allowed opposition MPs access to some parts of the budget.
IT teams had set up a website for the budget ahead of its release, with all of the information hidden.
What they didn’t realise was that typing specific search terms into the website bypassed security and displayed some of the information, which the opposition then publicised.
Police concluded that this activity was not illegal, and have declined to press charges.
‘One thing I always look for… is how much of other people’s money is being used to prop up the lot of others. In other words, how many New Zealanders are beholden to the state,’ he wrote in the New Zealand Herald.
‘Here’s your truth: it is an increasing and alarmingly large number.
‘Put as much kumbaya, flowery BS around it as you want, but the growth targets, the debt targets, the surplus numbers, the income, and revenue are all that matters.’
The so-called ‘Wellbeing Budget’ has drawn attention from global institutions including the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Mr Grant defended the big spending.
‘We are measuring our country’s success differently,’ he said.
‘We are not just relying on gross domestic product, but also how we are improving the wellbeing of our people, protecting the environment and strengthening of our communities.’
While the usual financial measures were still there, the plan was laid out across key social welfare areas the government says need improvement based on international standards, and which it expects to regularly track in the future, such as child poverty.
In practical terms, a record $NZ1.9 billion ($A1.79 billion) of new spending over four years has been put towards mental heath programs and suicide reduction, and $NZ1.1 billion towards child welfare initiatives.
About $NZ5.5 million has also been set aside for mental health support for Christchurch after the March 15 mosque shootings in the city.
Jacinda Ardern’s ‘Wellbeing Budget’
Total spend of $25.6billion over four years.
Spending $1.9billion over five years on mental health, including $455million for mental health workers at doctors’ clinics.
Schools will receive a $150 payout per student if they get rid of voluntary donations, at a cost of $265.6million over four years.
Beneficiaries to receive $47 more per week by 2023, costing $320.2million over four years.
Spend of almost $1billion on child wellbeing.
Another $NZ50 million is going towards boosting intelligence agencies, which have come under fire since the attack, while $NZ150 million has provisionally been allocated for gun buyback announced after the shootings.
But the opposition has labelled the budget a branding exercise with little change.
Despite the wellbeing focus, ministers have still found $NZ1 billion for investment in rail in a surprise announcement, under the banner of transforming the economy.
The defence force has been promised nearly $NZ470 million in new operational spending over four years, on top of $NZ1.7 billion earlier announced for new planes.
While expectations for New Zealand’s economy have slowed over the past year, the national books are predicted to stay in the black to the end of the forecast period, backing a four-year spending allowance that increased from NZ$2.4 billion in the previous budget to NZ$3.8 billion on Thursday.
The government ran an operating surplus of $NZ3.5 billion over the past year and expects that to rise to $NZ6.1 billion by 2022/23.
But the government has warned of headwinds and GDP growth for the year to June dipped has to 2.4 per cent. It is forecast to rebound to 3 per cent in 2019/20 based on increased government spending.
While the budget immediately won praise from social agencies on Thursday, economists this week told the AAP that the approach taken had been less stringent than welfare rules already employed by some European countries.
‘Every government has done work on health, education and policing … I think it’s more focused, and the rhetoric has been cleverer,’ Victoria University wellbeing and public policy professor Arthur Grimes said.
However, just hours before Thursday’s launch, New Zealand’s Treasury admitted an error on its website allowed highly sensitive budget information to be accessed earlier by the public, having earlier suggested there had been an stolen.
The department this week said it had been ‘deliberately and systematically hacked’, after the country’s centre-right National Party released details from the Labour-led administration’s upcoming national accounts.
But on Thursday officials revealed a problem with a test website had actually meant some details from the budget could be found using a search on Treasury’s website.
New Zealand conservative commentator Mike Hosking said the Labour government’s budget was a ‘marketing exercise that no one has fallen for’. Pictured: New Zealand Finance Minister Grant Robertson
Hours before the budget launch, National Party Opposition Leader Simon Bridges held a media conference calling for the resignations of Mr Robertson and Treasury head Gabriel Makhlouf for what he said had been deception and smears.
Mr Robertson and Ms Ardern both declined to discuss the saga on Thursday.
Melbourne radio 3AW host Tom Elliott said Australians who said they would move to New Zealand after the Coalition’s shock election victory should stop gushing over Ms Ardern.
‘I just want to put a few facts out there for everybody who thinks Jacinda Ardern is God’s gift to government,’ he said.
‘New Zealand takes far fewer refugees per head of population than what Australia does. We are the nice country to refugees, New Zealand is not.
‘They don’t want immigration, or certainly not as much as they used to have. New Zealand is not the open and welcoming country it used to be.
‘Teachers in New Zealand are complaining the government isn’t paying them enough and they’ve gone on a mass strike. So while we sit there praising Jacinda Ardern to the high heavens, New Zealanders see things differently. Just think about that.’