Next Thursday parliament becomes the 'Colosseum' as National’s new Finance Spokesperson Nicola Willis goes sword to sword, mace to mace with 'Gladiator', Grant Robertson.
In this strange analogy I’m deploying, 'Budget Day' is the economic and political equivalent of a Russell Crowe film.
So I watched with interest Willis’ pre-budget speech yesterday
Other than the real-life case studies she outlined, which drove home different ways the crisis is hurting different households, the speech didn’t do a lot for me.
Nothing new, a bit of directional stuff we’ve all heard plenty of before and a whoooole lot of dissing everything the government does.
The speech ratios were whack. Less grumbling, more solutions please.
But this bit piqued my interest
They don’t receive any of the finance minister's so-called targeted help because they earn too much to be eligible for a benefit, WFF, accommodation supplement or similar.
Many feel taken for granted by a Government which seems to suggest they’re too rich to deserve any relief.
My ears pricked up because yeah - I agree - the thresholds for accessing Government support seem outdated in these inflationary times.
So I had to fossick back through to remind myself who gets what. I do this so you don’t have to but it’s really interesting in the context of the cost of living debate and who’s doing what.
Let’s start with the Sole Parents Benefit for example - you’re raising your kid on your own, working as much as you can - you scrape in $43,800 a year - that’s less than the minimum wage bear in mind and bang you hit the cut off for the Sole Parent Benefit.
You are no longer eligible for any support. Less than the minimum wage. If the Government wanted to reduce incentives to work - there you have it.
Next Willis mentioned Working For Families.
The Government’s just bumped the abatement thresholds meaning more families can access family tax credits, this came into effect on April 1.
But if you’re a family with one kid you don’t qualify for working for family tax credits once you hit $66,500 dollars a year. Less than the average nurse's salary.
And remember, that’s your family income so a couple can’t earn more than 66k.
The much-celebrated increase in April actually only increased the threshold by 2.3 percent (from $65,000 cut off) on the year before while inflation is running wild at a 6.9 percent increase. You do the math. It’s not even close to keeping up.
Next - the Accommodation Supplement - if you’re single, living in Auckland you can’t earn over $54,000. If you’re in Wellington you can’t earn over $42,000. Again under the minimum wage.
Yes, a lot of those receiving the supplement are beneficiaries but one in five are not. So struggling, working singles living in the capital, where rents are increasing faster than anywhere, who are earning less than the minimum wage - can’t get the accommodation support.
Finally, I wanted to throw First Home Grants in there the Prime Minister has signalled to Today FM they need an update. They do. The income thresholds are less ridiculous than all the other examples $95k for a single, $150k for a couple.
But the house price caps are ludicrous. To be eligible for the grant to buy an existing home in Auckland the house needs to cost less than $625,000.
The average Auckland house costs $1.5million.
In Wellington good luck finding a house under $550,000 - that’s the only way you’ll be eligible. In Dunners nothing more than $425,000.
The upshot is this. Financial support designed to support people in financial need isn’t keeping up with inflation, house prices, wages, food prices - the cost of living in general.
Labour needs to address this in the Budget.
National needs to propose changes rather than just complain about it.
Now more than ever our politicians should lay down their politicking and do what’s right. Lest we, the public, unleash the tigers into the Colosseum.