Opinion

Rachel Smalley: Labour's leadership is inept, irresponsible and chaotic

OPINION

I'm not sure this Government could be more fiscally irresponsible. 

Today, the first of three Cost of Living Payments will be sent out to 2.1 million low and middle-income earners -- in total, it will cost you and I, the taxpayer, over $800 million. 

And, as you would have heard overnight, many overseas kiwis and migrants who once lived here, will receive the payment too. 

That's right. There's been a cock up. This is the legislation that was rushed through Parliament under urgency on Budget night when the Government announced another plan to give away more money to help ease the impact of inflation. 

They didn't think it through. It was a knee-jerk response and it's the Government's go-to policy now. Throw money at it. 

However, there's been an almighty screw-up, and our taxpayer dollars -- yours and mine -- are today being sent to people who live all over the world. 

Inland Revenue has emailed migrants who've long since left New Zealand but have bank accounts here, an email telling them they'll be receiving the money today. Kiwis, who haven't lived here, but are dual tax citizens and have bank accounts in New Zealand, they're receiving money. 

Stuff has some brilliant anecdotes on this, this morning. 

They've spoken to a Kiwi called Terry who lives in Switzerland. Switzerland, for goodness sake! And he has done for 18 years -- he hasn't had a salary paid into his New Zealand bank account since 2004 -- and he's getting the Cost of Living Payment. 

There's a Kiwi doctor, he's a well-paid scientist in a Salt Lake City lab in Utah, and he's getting the money. We're topping him up in the States. 

There's an Indian migrant who's back in NZ now. He was here on a temporary work visa and left in 2014. Eight years ago. He's getting it. We're helping him by paying the Cost of Living Payment to him even though he lives in India.  There are Working Holiday makers who've long since left here. They're getting it. Former international students who now live overseas. Erica Stanford, the Opposition Spokesperson for National, is listing all the messages she's getting in from people overseas asking her to clarify why they're receiving money. 

How does this happen? We are living in a circus. 

The Government said, at the time, that the Cost of Living Payment will help people through the peak of the inflation storm. And when it said that, it also revealed how little it understands about entry-level economics. If you throw almost a billion dollars into an economy in the midst of record inflation, you will fuel inflation. 

And so you enter a downward spiral. People find it hard to make ends meet, the Government tops them up, and that influx of cash fuels inflation. And around we go. 

To be fair, the Prime Minister said in her interview with Jack Tame at the weekend that all the advice she has was that putting almost a billion dollars into the economy wouldn't be overly inflationary. And maybe it won't be because - who knows - half of it may end up going to people who live overseas. 

It would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that these are our taxes being thrown around. And if you step back for a moment, and think about who's struggling right now, this will be hard for many to stomach. The thousands on the state housing waiting list, the police -- under-resourced and dealing with gangs and ram raids and spiking crime, the social services workers on the front line of child abuse, child poverty, and domestic abuse who all need more funding, our health workers, our mental health providers....the many, many areas in our society today who need financial support. 

And we're sending money to wealthy kiwis who've been living overseas for years, and migrants who've long since left our shores. What a screw-up. 

This could be the defining moment in Labour's leadership. It should be. 

It is inept. It is irresponsible. It's chaotic. It is economically and fiscally reckless. 

Enough of the policies on the fly. Enough of these enormous sums of money that are being thrown around, a debt that we and our children and grandchildren will be saddled with for years.

No one wins when a Government is out of ideas and out of options  We all lose. Every single one of us.

Listen to Rachel Smalley's full editorial above.

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