Budget 2019: The awkward story behind the Wellbeing Budget's cover photo

The Government's Wellbeing Budget features an image of a woman who moved to Australia because living costs in New Zealand were too much.

Vicky Freeman and her daughter Ruby-Jean - the smiling, happy faces of the Government's much lauded Budget 2019 - were very surprised when they learned they were on the front cover. 

"It was a shock and all of this that's come out of it even more shocking," Freeman said.

She told Newshub it was "just hard financially" being a single parent in New Zealand.

The budget is also delivering $2.9b towards NZ families.
The budget is also delivering $2.9b towards NZ families. Photo credit: Newshub.

It's not the kind of Budget publicity the Government was after.

National leader Simon Bridges pointed out the blunder in Parliament on Thursday. As he held a copy of the Budget, he pointed to the image of the woman on the cover and told MPs: "She's moved to Australia!"

"That tells you all you need to know about this Budget - it's glossy pics; it's spin."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defended using the image. In Parliament, she took a jab at the National Party Caucus.

"It's somewhat similar, probably, to the Opposition Caucus room - regardless of the smiling faces on the front, it's what happens on the inside that really matters."

The Government's mental health spend

The Government's Wellbeing Budget has delivered a vast amount of spending for mental health - $1.9 billion over four years.

About $143 million a year to boost the frontline - putting mental health workers in clinics. It will eventually help 325,000 people a year - 81,250 people will be able to access free services from next year.

The government is delivering $1.9 billion over four years towards mental health services.
The government is delivering $1.9 billion over four years towards mental health services. Photo credit: Newshub.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said it was the "largest spend on mental health that has ever been seen from a government".

The mental health spend will see $10 million a year spent on suicide prevention including free counseling for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

In her Budget speech the Prime Minister recalled when 606 pairs of shoes were brought to Parliament in 2017 representing people who killed themselves the year before, at the time it brought the Prime Minister to tears.

"I knew one of those pairs of shoes and who it belonged to," she said in Parliament on Thursday.

"It affects all of us."

Christchurch man Robert Read once came close to ending his life. He waited hours at the Christchurch Emergency department before being handed antidepressants and sent home.

The Government's mental health focus in the Budget "shows how serious the Government is taking this issue", he told Newshub.

But he also raised questions about it, such as where the all the extra staff will come from to make it happen.

"Where is all the extra staff going to come from? We already have a shortage of mental health staff as a nation."

The nearly $2 billion on mental health is matched by $2 billion being spent on defence - most on new patrol planes.

Robertson was asked by Newshub if the Government was spending more in the Budget on defence, planes and trains than on mental health.

He replied: "No, over the long-term, most definitely not."

The Finance Minister also addressed using the image of Vicky Freeman on the cover of the Budget.

"That's a stock photograph - we chose it because it's a nice photo. I'm sure this Budget will mean she wants to move back to New Zealand," he said.

After learning more about the Wellbeing Budget, Freeman now says she's proud to be the face of it - but not that proud.

"I'm really happy here in Australia."

Newshub.

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