Barry Soper: Govt steals Nats' thunder with $12b spend-up

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 Dec 2019, 10:32AM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Barry Soper: Govt steals Nats' thunder with $12b spend-up

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 Dec 2019, 10:32AM

COMMENT:

It's known as the Hyefu, or the Half Yearly Economic and Financial Update, pronounced Hi-foo. Watching Grant Robertson bounding to the podium in the media lock-up at Treasury you could be forgiven for thinking he was delivering an economic high-five, so enthusiastic was he about being a big spender.

Twelve billion bucks is being borrowed to lift spending on infrastructure to its highest level in more than 20 years. The lion's share of it, almost $7 billion, is to be spent on roads and rail - but we're being kept in the dark until next year about how the money's going to be apportioned and which projects will be targeted.

Robertson assures us the projects are "shovel ready" - that's if they can find anyone to start digging. A single line in the voluminous reports summed it up: The labour market is tight and some resources will likely need to be reallocated to meet the increase in demand.

That's the trouble with this country, finding people to do the job. Fact is, the Government doesn't need more jobs created, it desperately needs more people to fill them.

Try to get a tradie to do a job around the house, and in many cases a decent one at that, and you'll understand just how tight the market is and it's going to get even tighter, if you listen to Robertson.

The $400 million spray Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced for schools in her recent speech to the Labour Party conference was reannounced by Finance Minister Robertson yesterday in his hi-five. He later claimed tradies are preparing to line up at the school gates after the summer break. If that's true, put the house renos on hold.

But he assures us the big infrastructure projects will be announced early next year and we know what's happening later that year. Trouble is, if you look at the Treasury breakdown of the rollout, a shovel will hardly hit the dirt this side of the election and we'll have to wait until 2025 until the front-end loader delivers most of the dosh.

It's likely Robertson will resurrect at least some of National's roads of significance, pulling the rug from them having any opposition to the projects, arguing money was never set aside for them anyway.

Of course that's seen the Nats squealing like stuck proverbials, claiming this Government's putting spending on your grandchildren's credit cards.

And while we're talking of pigs, whatever happened to the notion promoted by Rob Muldoon that if you put money in their hip pocket they'll put the right vote in the ballot box?

Roads and rail won't cut it.