Tova O'Brien: Blockbuster Beneficiary Booster Budget - bold but necessary

OPINION: This is the the 'Blockbuster Beneficiary Booster Budget'.

After being bludgeoned for the last two years for failing to lift benefits, as recommended by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, the Government has not only finally done it, it's gone even further for people with kids.

All beneficiaries get an immediate pay bump of $20 a week, with increases ultimately topping out in April next year between $32 and $55.

This will mean a great deal to people like Tui Makoare, who Newshub spoke to on Wednesday. COVID-19 meant he lost his job, and on the limited cash he gets each week it's a struggle to even fill up the tank to drive to job interviews.

The Government’s investing an eye-watering $3.3 billion into benefits over two years. To put that into perspective it's about how much Labour would spend in total on operating costs in a normal budget for EVERYTHING.

The public backs the move. In our pre-Budget Newshub Reid Research poll, we asked: Should the Government follow the recommendation to raise the unemployment benefit?

A majority - 54.8 percent - said yes, far more than those who opposed - 34.5 percent. The rest weren't sure.

Any beneficiary bashing that goes down post-Budget isn’t going to square with the public.

The Government needed to do this - or at least do something to boost benefits. The Prime Minister made child poverty her raison d'etre. To have the stats consistently deliver abysmal results (albeit trend slightly in the right direction) for children was the ultimate black mark on her leadership.

This is bold but necessary.

At this rate Jacinda Ardern may just wind up delivering on her promise to be a transformational Government - a promise she failed to deliver on last term.

In keeping with alliteration, Budget 2021 is also the last of the 'Big Blowout Budgets'.

This is why Grant Robertson keeps telling you to see this term's three Budgets holistically. He doesn't want you to think he's too loose with your cash.

The Government's spending $1.4 billion more than it had planned this year, a total operating spend of $3.8 billion. But then for the rest of the term he's tightening the belt - reducing the spend to $2.7 billion for the Government's future budgets.

Ultimately, this Budget is Labour showing it's been liberated from the shackles of Winston Peters.

Gone are the days of money for good-looking race horses like Peters secured in 2018.

This is a purist ruby-red Labour Budget.

Tova O'Brien is Newshub's political editor.