Peter Dunne not expecting 'a lot' from Budget 2023, says Robertson will be doing 'balancing act' to get everything in

A former MP says the Finance Minister has a juggling act on his hands to include everything in Thursday's Budget. 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson will reveal the Budget at 2pm on Thursday but the Government has been playing down expectations. 

The Government says the Budget will come with a focus on recovery, resilience and fiscal sustainability while Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said it will be a "no-frills" one because it reflects the times the country's going through.

The Government also described the Budget as being focused on the cost of living crisis.

Political scientist and former MP Peter Dunne told AM Early he isn't expecting "a lot" from Thursday's Budget.

"Well, not a great deal actually because the conditions under which it has been prepared are so tight. When he produced the Budget policy statement in December, Grant Robertson said the focus will be on COVID recovery and sort of building a sustainable economy, since then he's had the cyclones to factor in," Dunne told AM Early host Michael O'Keefe. 

"So his room for manoeuvre has become even that much tighter than it was a few months ago." 

Robertson will have a "balancing act" between COVID-19 recovery, cyclone recovery and trying to give Kiwis some hope who are struggling with the cost of living crisis, Dunne said. 

Dunne told AM Early Robertson would normally have more room to "manoeuvre" but given all the announcements that have already been made, the Finance Minister has "little room" left to move. 

"At the same time, he knows people are hurting because of the cost of living and inflation and he knows there is a sense there's massive deficits in areas and infrastructure," Dunne said.

"He's somehow got to try and give some signals through the Budget that the Government is focussed on these and is able to do something to help. It's a very difficult balancing act for him." 

Dunne is suspecting Robertson will throw in a "surprise" like what happens in every Budget but won't be a "big surprise". 

Peter Dunne isn't expecting "a lot" from Thursday's Budget.
Peter Dunne isn't expecting "a lot" from Thursday's Budget. Photo credit: AM

Thursday's Budget will be Robertson's sixth since coming into Government in 2017 and Dunne believes he'll be wanting to show Labour still understands how to manage the economy. 

"He'll be wanting to show people that after six years in Government, Labour still has the smarts if you like, it still has its hands on the economy well and can manage better than its opponents," Dunne told AM Early. 

"The test of that will be whether the public judges the Budget has had any impact on them. If it's seen as a bit ho-hum and nothing much has changed, he may suffer. On the other hand, if they feel they can at least see a way forward or that there's something in it for them, then he could benefit." 

With the election under five months away, the way Robertson will try to get the public onside and gain momentum into the election is through providing better access to health care, Dunne believes. 

"I think the way he may look to do this … is to look at things like access to health care, costs of doctor's visits, medications, etc and maybe make some changes there, where he feels it will have a more immediate impact on families, in particular, going into the winter," Dunne told AM Early. 

"After all, the Government has an election in October and it wants people to be feeling reasonably good by then. 

"So something that's going to be a sweetener during the winter, I think could be the path that he takes."

Watch the full interview with Peter Dunne in the video above.