Pre-Budget announcements - Are you wooed or ewwed?

Opinion: The government’s gone pre-Budget bananas. A spending spree extravaganza. It had too much coffee, borrowed the credit card, wagged work and hit the mall. A mall of very worthy shops selling very worthy initiatives. 

Something felt a bit weird. The heft and frequency of pre-budget announcements seemed a bit out of whack but a scroll back through all the Beehive press releases from May this year versus the press releases from May last year shows just how spendy pants the government has been. 

This was a cursory scan, so please correct me if I missed any, but so far I’ve counted nine pre-Budget announcements this May alone. Nine. That is a lot. 

You know how many they did in May last year in the lead up to Budget 2021? Two. Two pre-budget announcements last year for women’s health and climate. Spending a grand total of $228 million. 

You wanna know how much the pre-Budget announcements cost you this May so far? $1.1 billion. $1.1 billion in pre-budgies versus $228 million last year. 

A 405 percent increase. That of course doesn’t include the $2.9 billion from the climate fund announced on Monday. That would make it a 1,700 percent increase. 

This tells us a few things. 

First of all, this is pretty smart. The government looks busy. It looks thoughtful. It looks like it cares about things that matter to you. These spends have been on mental health, jobs, crime and gangs, truancy, learning, family and sexual violence, biosecurity, youth development and digi tech. 

By drip feeding the announcements, the government gets maximum bang for its buck, and better coverage of each announcement rather than having the smaller, less headline-grabbing initiatives being subsumed in the billions bashed about on budget day. 

So it works well in that regard and traditionally there are a fair few pre-budgies but this is bonkers by any traditional standards. 

Second of all, it dilutes the spending on Budget Day. When you’re massively under the pump for spending gazillions of taxpayer dollars wantonly during a cost of living crisis then diluting the spending in the days and weeks leading up to the Budget can help. 

Yes, the six billion dollar blowout will still be picked apart and lambasted but there will be more focus on actual Budget Day of the big bangs that the government wants us to focus on. 

This brings me to my third point. Given how much the government has sprayed in the lead up I’m feeling more convinced there will be a few decent cost of living sweeteners in there. 

If it can dole out 1.1billy in a few weeks pre-budget, surely there’s going to be something fairly chunky to bribe voters with. I mean, show them their government cares for them; surely there’s gonna be a surprise or two. 

There’s no way the Finance Minister would let all those pre-Budget ministers take away from his big day if there wasn’t something damn impressive left over. 

Grant Robertson is big on managing expectations, underpromising and overdelivering. It’s incentive-driven psychological manipulation and it works. 

So alongside free public transport on Thursday, expect a little something extra to help ease you through this crisis. 

Which brings me to my final point. I think the government is crapping itself. It’s quite genuinely terrified about what’s playing out in the polls. 

Pre-budget announcements, attempting to regain a stranglehold on the narrative, showing how much they care about the things that matter to you while masking the fact they’re spending like crazy AND chef’s kiss, leaving you a special surprise for Budget Day. 

The government has finally woken up to the fact you’ve gone dark on it and it’s trying to woo you back. 

Nine pre-Budget announcements the equivalent of a dozen red roses dropped along the path to the polling booth. 

You tell me, is it working? Are you wooed or ew-ed?

You can also download the full interview on the Tova podcast, and listen on the go. Check it out on the rova app or wherever you get your podcasts.