Barry Soper: Budget spoiling Bridges had good reason to celebrate

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 29 May 2019, 6:42AM
These days budgets are pretty much an open secret.
These days budgets are pretty much an open secret.

COMMENT:

There's not a lot that Simon Bridges has been able to celebrate since becoming National's leader in February last year.

He's had more bloody noses than an unskilled welterweight boxer. He's been on the mat, almost out for the count, time and time again but has managed to drag himself to his feet to fight another day.

But yesterday he was floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, a number cruncher in Treasury was making his day.

Budget facts and figures were falling like confetti and this was no shadow boxing effort. He was doing Finance Minister Grant Robertson's job for him, announcing what we're to expect in Parliament's bear pit tomorrow.

His lyrical lines were well rehearsed. It's not the world-first Wellbeing Budget, it's the Winston Budget, he crowed. There'll be money for tanks but not for teachers, there'll be money for trees but not for teeth. There'll be aid money for the Pacific Islands at the expense of fully funding our ambulances.

Oh it was pure poetry with the repeated stanza, it's all spin and no substance.

It just so happens that Defence, Forestry and aid are portfolios held by New Zealand First.

But the jolly purse-string pulling Finance Minister was showing little sign of being annoyed, although inwardly Robertson must have been furious. All he could say was that some of the figures were right and some were wrong, he maintained he was focused on ensuring our wellbeing tomorrow.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson holds a copy of 2019 Budget. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Finance Minister Grant Robertson holds a copy of 2019 Budget. Photo / Mark Mitchell

He'll worry about his own wellbeing, the leak the day after, and so he should. Leaking Budget documents is a serious business.

Governments have in the past, like Canada, been forced to release a Budget early because someone was drip feeding stuff out.

And Roger Douglas offered his resignation to David Lange in 1986 when some details of his tightly controlled Budget was inadvertently released to business interests. Lange lived to rue the day he didn't take Douglas up on the offer.

But Budgets in those days were as tight as a drum, any hint of what was in them could dramatically affect the markets.

These days they're pretty much an open secret. The biggest challenge is deciding on the day what's new and what's already been announced.

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