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T could easily be termed “a Labour Budget”, but the one delivered by Finance Minister Bill English last week was, of course, an election year sweetener.The big surprise of this year’s Budget is a crowd pleaser for families, and will also be welcomed by schools and health workers – yes, free GP visits for children will be extended up to age 13 with a $90 million boost.More than 400,000 more children nationwide, all primary school-aged children can go to a doctor for free, any time of the day, as well as being entitled to free prescriptions. The changes, which will be offered through general practices from July 1, 2015. Despite the pressures to cut spending to achieve a surplus, English has found enough cash to pay for a $500 million package for extending paid parental leave, and free doctor’s visits and prescriptions for under-13s, as well as boosting the parental tax credit.English has done so in in large part by postponing start-up dates for these programmes until next year.Apart from answering critics who claim National doesn’t care about child poverty, these schemes, which come straight out of the centre-left’s textbook, are National’s way of paying a dividend to middle New Zealand for sticking by Key and his colleagues. It is another raid by Key into Labour territory.
“It’s a condent Budget for a condent
country,” English declared last week.“We’re in an enviable position compared with many others in the developed world. Our economy is growing steadily and creating more jobs. Average wages are rising faster
than ination. That’s happening now and
Budget forecasts show it continuing, with 170,000 more people in work by mid-2018 and unemployment projected to fall to 4.4 per cent.“This budget shows that National is responsibly managing the Government’s
nances,” English said.
“We’ll record a small surplus next year and larger surpluses in the coming years, which will allow us some extra spending, but not so much that it pushes interest rates higher than they otherwise would be.
“Responsible management over the last ve
years has allowed for some new spending this
year, and our rst priority is families. We’ve
put children and families at the heart of our new spending. We will:Make GP visits and prescriptions free for children under 13,Extend paid parental leave from 14 to 18 weeks, and expand eligibility,
Election sweetener a
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