Finance Minister Grant Robertson admits some Budget details National released are correct

Grant Robertson has admitted some of the information the National Party released claiming to be details of the Wellbeing Budget are correct.

Robertson, the Finance Minister, said in the material that was released by National on Tuesday, "some numbers were right and some numbers were wrong".

The document claimed the Budget - to be released fully on Thursday - will set aside $1.3 billion for defence, $740 million for international aid, $744 million for DHBs, and $139 million for forestry, among other details.

National leader Simon Bridges criticised the Government for allocating money for "tanks but not for teachers" and for "trees but not for teeth", pointing to the looming teachers' strike and confirmation that the Budget won't have money for dentistry.

While Robertson admitted some of the figures in the material were correct, he said it didn't provide "even a fraction" of the full picture of the Wellbeing Budget.

"This is not the real Budget - the real Budget is about the priorities we've got around taking mental health seriously, reducing child poverty, [and] working on improving the economic and social opportunities for Māori and Pasikifa."

He pointed to the figures on defence in the material as being misleading, in that it "reflects the increased spending for the P-8s which was previously announced and factored for the first few years".

The Government announced in July last year that it would spend $2.3 billion on purchasing four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft from the US to replace the ageing Air Force P-3 Orions.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Robertson also said he wanted to make it "absolutely clear" that the material had not been leaked from the Beehive "because the kinds of numbers in here are not aggregated in a way that's been received in the Beehive".

Robertson said the released information was not embarrassing for the Government, adding: "We're still looking into exactly what happened."

"The material that's been released - some of it's right, some of it's wrong - but you'll see the real Budget on Thursday."

Robertson said he has no intention of offering his resignation as Finance Minister after the material was released, but said: "After Thursday, no doubt there will be some time spent looking into this."

The material that was sent out by National only covers 2019-2020, whereas Budget forecasts are made on a four-year period.

Robertson said there are ways in which the Budget is cut year-by-year because it has to be paid year-by-year, "but as I say, this material is not Budget 2019 and some of the numbers are not correct".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Parliament.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Parliament. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Secretary to the Treasury Gabriel Makhlouf issued a statement on Tuesday, saying: "Right now we're conducting our own review of these reports and the information that has been published."

He said as far as the Treasury is concerned, "the release of Budget 2019 will proceed as planned this Thursday".

Bridges questioned the Government allocating $740 million for international aid in 2019/2020, but couldn't find $62 million to fully fund ambulance services.

As for the $744 million boost to DHBs, Bridges said the amount will "barely be enough to cover business as usual cost pressures including deficits, let alone new initiatives".

When asked if the details of the material were true on Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: "I would never take the National Party statements as read."

"Opposition's going to do what the Opposition does," she added, going on to criticise National for the "patently incorrect things they've said recently about crime statistics".

Bridges earlier this week blamed the Government's effort to reduce the prison population for a rise in serious crime.

"I do not take as read anything that comes from the National Party, they are our Opposition, remember. It is their prerogative if they wish to speculate, but they only have two days left to wait."

When asked if her Cabinet is leaking, Ardern said: "No."

Asked if National found the information or was leaked it, Bridges said: "I'm not going to say how I got this information, just as I wouldn't expect journalists to do so."

"What we've done there, in the information that we've given you, is put together what we have from the information to protect how and what information we have, but it is certainly information from the Budget - we're confident of that."

"I think what it shows is a loose, incompetent Government that really doesn't know what it's about and what it's doing."

It's not the first time National has leaked information ahead of the Government.

The party leaked a Cabinet paper earlier this month that showed options for a referendum at the 2020 election on the decriminalisation of cannabis for recreational use.

Newshub. 

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz