What 'wellbeing' means to the National Party

The National Party has taken a crack at the Wellbeing Budget ahead of its release this week, questioning the Government's policies.

Amy Adams, National's finance spokesperson, said her party believes wellbeing is about "having a job", a "place to live", "being able to pay your bills", good health and education, as well as "freedom" and protecting the environment.

She said these aspects need to be covered in the Government's Wellbeing Budget on Thursday, "not more tax and spend, borrow and hope".

She took aim at the Government over the decision to set new debt guidelines for when the current Budget Responsibility Rules (BRR) of reducing debt to 20 percent of GDP within five years have concluded.

"It's wasting so much money it's had to drop its self-imposed debt target and increase the spending limit by $17 billion so it can fund its bad spending decisions."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defended the move on Monday. She said the Government is projected to maintain its existing 20 percent GDP target until 2022, after which time the new BRR rules could be set.

"Treasury made the recommendation that a band rather than a precise number was a better way to manage debt in those years beyond 2022," she said, referring to the new 15-25 percent target that's been set for 2022.

"We've chosen a band where the midpoint happens to still be 20 percent. I see not everyone has grasped that continuity."

From left to right: National MP Amy Adams, leader Simon Bridges, National MP Judith Collins, and deputy leader Paula Bennett.
From left to right: National MP Amy Adams, leader Simon Bridges, National MP Judith Collins, and deputy leader Paula Bennett. Photo credit: Getty

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government will still be committed to fiscal discipline. But, in making the first Wellbeing Budget, he said he had to consider "whether the rules fully capture what we're trying to do there".

Adams also expressed concern over the number of adults who aren't seeing their doctor because it's too expensive and demanded the Government do something about it.

In Opposition, Labour promised to reduce doctors' fees, starting July 1, 2018. But the Government back-peddled on that policy ahead of last year’s Budget.

Adams said healthcare is "the very definition of wellbeing" and has called on the Government to make doctor visits cheaper, pointing to results in the 2017/18 New Zealand Health Survey.

"I'm calling on Health Minister David Clark to halt the decline in these core services to improve the lives of New Zealanders."

But while the survey found that around one in seven adults reported not visiting a GP due to cost in the past year, it said that was "not significantly different from 2011/12".

It also found that only 2 percent of children did not visit a GP due to the cost in the past year, down from 4.7 percent in 2011/12. Free doctor visits and prescriptions were extended to all under-14s in Budget 2017.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Photo credit: Getty

Adams also took aim at Education Minister Chris Hipkins after he recently told teachers there would be no further increase to the $1.2 billion pay settlement offer.

Primary and secondary teachers are set for a "mega-strike" on Wednesday - the day before the Wellbeing Budget is released - after overwhelmingly rejecting the latest offer.

Adams said the Wellbeing Budget should prioritise teachers over the fees-free policy which Hipkins said hadn't met initial forecasts.

"Education Minister Chris Hipkins has already told teachers they can expect to be disappointed. But he's likely to push ahead with prioritizing his unpopular tertiary reforms over resolving teacher's pay claims."

The Prime Minister has said the Wellbeing Budget will focus on fostering economic strength but not at the expense of people's wellbeing.