Minister of Finance refuses to commit to campaign promises

In the first Question Time (Oral Questions) in the new Parliament the Minister of Finance Grant Robertson was asked repeatedly whether he would stand by his fiscal statement made prior to the election. Robertson repeatedly refused.

Crown Expenses—Fiscal Plan

3. Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) to the Minister of Finance: Can he confirm it is his intention as Minister of Finance to ensure core Crown expenses do not exceed $81.9 billion in 2017/18, $86.1 billion in 2018/19, $88.2 billion in 2019/20, $91.8 billion in 2020/21, and $96.1 billion in 2021/22, as specified in the Labour Party’s pre-election Fiscal Plan?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I can confirm that it is my intention for core Crown expenditure as a percentage of GDP to be within the recent historical range. As to the exact figures in the member’s question, I cannot confirm those as, of course, they are subject to detailed Budget decisions and revenue forecasts that are yet to be finalised.

Hon Steven Joyce: Can he confirm that he stands by his statement from 4 September this year, and I quote, “Labour’s Fiscal Plan is robust, the numbers are correct and we stand by them”?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm that the Budget that this Government is putting together will be robust and it will deliver on a commitment that this Government has made to ensure that all New Zealanders share in prosperity.

Michael Wood: What else, in addition to managing core Crown expenditure, will guide the Government’s approach to responsible fiscal management?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government will observe the Budget responsibility rules as indicated in the Speech from the Throne: namely, delivering a sustainable operating balance before gains and losses; reducing net core Crown debt to 20 percent of GDP within 5 years; and ensuring a fair and balanced progressive taxation system. We will also never forget that the purpose of a strong economy is to give every New Zealander the chance to share in prosperity, and we will never be satisfied while children live in poverty or families sleep in cars.

Hon Steven Joyce: Does he stand by his statement also on 4 September, and I quote, that “Our operating expenses are above the line and are clearly stated.”?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Budget that this Government will prepare will be clear about what we are spending and where the revenue for that is coming from.

Hon Steven Joyce: So that’s a no. Can I also ask: does he stand by his statement, and I quote, “We have quite clearly put in the spending requirements to meet the promises we have made. Our fiscal plan adds up. We are absolutely clear that we have the money to meet the commitments that we’ve made.”, also on 4 September?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government will prepare a Budget that shows how we will pay for the important commitments that we have made to ensure that every New Zealander benefits from economic prosperity.

Hon Steven Joyce: Can the Minister of Finance then confirm that it is not his intention to necessarily ensure core Crown expenditure does not exceed $81.9 billion this current financial year, $86.1 billion in the next financial year, $88.2 billion in 2019-20, $91.8 billion in 2020-21, and $96.1 billion in 2021-22? Can he confirm that’s not his intention, even though it was specified in the Labour Party’s pre-election fiscal plan?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm that we will keep Government expenditure as a percentage of GDP in line with the historical range.

Hon Steven Joyce: Can the finance Minister then confirm that he doesn’t at all stand by the numbers he presented in the Labour Party’s fiscal plan prior to the election?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government is currently going through the usual process of putting together a Budget. We are absolutely confident that we will deliver a Budget that is in line with the Budget responsibility rules that were outlined in the Speech from the Throne and that will deliver to New Zealanders a fair share in prosperity. As I said in my primary answer, the final numbers are the subject of the normal Budget process.

Hon Steven Joyce: I’m sorry, Mr Speaker, but just to be clear, the Minister released a fiscal plan prior to the election—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will sit the member down now and ask him to ask a question. Speaker Hunt used to have an old saying that questions start with a question word, rather than something else.

Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No.

Hon Simon Bridges: It’s a fresh, genuine point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: Right.

Hon Simon Bridges: It’s simply this. The question was straight, really: whether he stood by the numbers they had pre-election. There really wasn’t any attempt to answer that specific question.

Hon Chris Hipkins: Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I’m not going to take any further comments on that. Both the asker of the question and I thought that there was a very clear response.

Hon Steven Joyce: Is he saying that the actual numbers written on the Labour Party’s fiscal plan prior to this election, which he and his colleagues defended vigorously during the election campaign, are no longer relevant? The comments he has made suggest that he will put whatever numbers he likes in front of the public in due course in the next Budget.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have been absolutely clear that the commitment that we have made is that Government expenditure as a percentage of GDP will remain in line with the long-run historical trend. Members on the other side of the House well know that we will now be looking at new revenue forecasts and, indeed, new growth forecasts. They will determine the exact numbers that are presented. But we are very clear on this side of the House: our number add up.

During the campaign Robertson had also been absolutely clear about commitments on expenditure and the robustness of Labour’s fiscal plan.

From PDF of Labour’s  fiscal plan (3MB).

LabourFiscalPlan

Obviously coalition agreements and changing fiscal situations can force changes on a Government.

But the Opposition has kicked off by establishing a clear separation between campaign promises and what the new Minister of Finance is prepared to commit to at the start of his tenure in charge of the country’s finances.

55 Comments

  1. High Flying Duck

     /  November 10, 2017

    The way Robertson was answering you’d almost think there was a hole in their numbers…

    • I’m picking the allegedly “imaginary” $11.7 billion Joyce referred to will be a dream scenario for the hapless Grant R. He looks and sounds way out of his depth as do Hipkins and Twyford

      • Blazer

         /  November 10, 2017

        I think you’ll be proved wrong as for hapless ministers in the previous admin…where to start….

        • I’m very sure I won’t be. They are all lightweight. Not one of these people are in the Clark and Cullen moulds. Mr Robinson is an embarrassing veritable fiscal lightweight. Clearly, I mean that figuratively and not literally. He has been comprehensively dipped in the Labour bucket of paint – shade petulance.

      • robertguyton

         /  November 10, 2017

        I’m picking the $11.7 billion Joyce imagined will be a dream scenario for the Government for ever and a day.
        Fify.

  2. Corky

     /  November 10, 2017

    Jacinda needs to take Grant aside and tell him two things:

    1- The fate of her government rests on his shoulders.

    2- Point to a picture of Bill English and tell Grant he has to match or better Bill’s performance as finance minister.

    • A man with a Politics degree understanding figures? This is the man who told us a fortnight ago that the minimum wage went up a dollar a year under the last Labour Govt. The real figure.

      68 cents.

      Heaven help him and us by extension.

      • Blazer

         /  November 10, 2017

        so you think a man with a degree in Zoology better ..qualified…vat a….hooot!

        • High Flying Duck

           /  November 10, 2017

          A man who knew how to create…capital.

          • Blazer

             /  November 10, 2017

            borrow ..you mean.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 10, 2017

              I believe he helped created a multi million dollar company from nothing and made millions from the eventual sale…
              But Grant once had a nickname also shared by Tanalised wood, so there is that.

            • robertguyton

               /  November 10, 2017

              He created a hole.

          • Blazer

             /  November 10, 2017

            did a wonderful deal for NZ taxpayers with P.Thiel…would you like me to go over it with you…again!

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 10, 2017

              That was Nathan Guy. There still isn’t any issue with it.

            • Blazer

               /  November 10, 2017

              no it was Joyce,no issue because Thiel cashed up,gave taxpayers,basically their money back,and pocketed over $20mil profit.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 10, 2017

              Aaah – the Xero deal done under rules set up by Labour, which were reviewed after they were brought to Joyce’s attention.
              I remember now.

            • Blazer

               /  November 10, 2017

              the programme set by Labour did not include genius Joyces brilliant heads you win,tails..we..lose..clause.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 10, 2017

              Actually that was a clause specifically put in during the Labour term. It was removed by National though…

            • Blazer

               /  November 10, 2017

              I don’t appreciate your misleading comment.Like to see you prove it.I suppose Labour made McCully hand over 11mil ,plus stock to a shady Saudi sheik..too!!

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 10, 2017

              Finance Minister Joyce, who was Minister for Economic Development at the time the Valar partnership was signed and operated, was asked if the buyout option represented a good deal for taxpayers.

              “On the face of it, no,” the minister said.

              Joyce said he had inherited the settings for the NZVIF, including the buyout clause, and suggested Lees-Galloway direct his criticism elsewhere.

              “If he’s got a problem with it — and I don’t argue with him that he should — then he needs to go back and talk to the Labour ministers at the time [2002] who set this up,” Joyce said.

              The existence of the buyback option, described by a Wall St source as having exposed the Government to a “horrendous risk-return proposition”, meant Thiel was able to cheaply acquire the NZVIF’s share if the investment performed well, but share losses equally if it failed.

              The NZVIF said the buyback option had been a standard part of its investment partnership since 2002 and was intended to encourage private-sector involvement.

              “Rather than making an investment return, NZVIF’s primary role has been to develop market activity, participation, awareness and capability,” a spokesman said.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 10, 2017

              The Saudi deal was a whole different kettle of fish. I have no time for McCully or the deals he did and the resolutions he sponsored – parliament is well rid of him.

      • Conspiratoor

         /  November 10, 2017

        Give the man a break trav. ROUND(0.68, 0).

        • Nope. He’s a shocker. That $1.00 a year mistake is unforgivably incompetent and ignorant.

          • Gezza

             /  November 10, 2017

            You seem to be forgetting that Grant will now be regularly exposed to the officials & the economists from Treasury, & in theory, & if Hekia was anything to go by, it will only be a matter of a few months before he will be able elegantly spout barely-comprehensible economic jargon, numbers, & acronyms at such a phenomenal rate that Steven’s head will spin.

  3. duperez

     /  November 10, 2017

    But the Opposition has kicked off by establishing a clear separation between campaign promises and what the new Minister of Finance is prepared to commit to at the start of his tenure in charge of the country’s finances.

    In these early days is the new lot in government like a substitute coming into a game well on in the piece and being expected to know everything and be totally on the same wavelength as everything else that is going on? And immediately implement things where the field is uncertain?

    Yes, but considerably more than that. The expectation is that instantly the new one will change the whole tenor of the game and be in touch with all the nuances and how to fine tune them and get them going where they want. As well as make big changes.

    All the while on the sidelines there are baying hordes who don’t even want them to be on the field. All the while on the sidelines there are those who don’t want them to change anything.

  4. Gezza

     /  November 10, 2017

    Shit that was embarrassing to watch.

    • Gezza

       /  November 10, 2017

      Steven somehow managed to pull off the impression he was talking to a child.

      • robertguyton

         /  November 10, 2017

        He always talks down to people, ’cause he’s, you know, arrogant.

        • Gezza

           /  November 10, 2017

          Well, I’m not a big fan of Steven. He’s been most notable to me for his soothing car salesman patter such that there was never any problem, anywhere, with anything, ever. So I generally never paid him any attention. But Grant sounded quite a lot like Steven used to, I thought? Certainly looking forward to this round of Question Times while the new government members try to get to grips with already sounding like the old one. The new Opposition looks likely to be better than the old one?

  5. Blazer

     /  November 10, 2017

    Robertsons answer was perfectly acceptable.’ we will now be looking at new revenue forecasts and, indeed, new growth forecasts. They will determine the exact numbers that are presented. But we are very clear on this side of the House: our number add up.’…go ask..Berl,better still wait for the…budget.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  November 10, 2017

      Their numbers certainly add up, to a very large deficit which we will get to pay. Enjoy.

      • Blazer

         /  November 10, 2017

        how many deficits did Natz run..Al.Btw…I’m all for them,from here to eternity.

        • High Flying Duck

           /  November 10, 2017

          Just enough to get through GFC and a couple of large earthquakes, before getting back into surplus. Why do you ask?

          • Blazer

             /  November 10, 2017

            for Als sake…appears to be under a misapprehension about the Natz record of running straight..deficits.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 10, 2017

              The present Government of losers does appear to be the equivalent of several large earthquakes, B.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 10, 2017

              … and will probably cause a Local Financial Crisis before it is much older.

          • Blazer

             /  November 10, 2017

            one trick pony..comes to mind.

  6. duperez

     /  November 10, 2017

    I’m trying to work out how Robertson should have to answer questions about stuff which happened before he was Minister, before his lot were in Government.

    All that stuff has nothing to do with holding him to account in his role as Minister. He should have quoted the Clutha Protocol, “In September anything I said or did was not in the position of Minister, so I will not answer questions about that.”

    • robertguyton

       /  November 10, 2017

      “The Clutha Protocol”

    • The Speaker addressed that.

      Hon Tracey Martin: In the 51st Parliament, the last Speaker made it very clear that the Government was not responsible for the manifesto or the policies of a political party. Can I ask for a ruling on that, please?

      Mr SPEAKER: I’m happy to answer that. I think the member has been quite careful in the way that he has phrased his questions, asking whether the member was standing by the figures or still agreed with the figures. I think that is something that is acceptable. They’re a set of figures—it doesn’t really matter where they come from, and it’s a question of whether those figures portray the current position of the Government. If that was not the case, I would have ruled out the original question.

  7. NOEL

     /  November 10, 2017

    Gezz if all the opposition policies, from every past election, that never lived up to the hype was listed here we would be scrolling for months.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  November 10, 2017

      True. It’s not what they won’t do, it’s what they will do that is the problem.

      • Gezza

         /  November 10, 2017

        Well at least, to be fair, Jacinda has promised to consult widely, including with business before implementing finalising & implementing their detailed policies, Al. Did you watch or read her maiden speech as PM?

  8. Zedd

     /  November 10, 2017

    The first Q-time & the Natz ‘ATTACK DOGS’ have their gnashing teeth out already. Well I say its not really about ‘holding the Govt. to account’ right now, so much as further evidence of a bunch of SORE LOSERS; snarling & snapping at the new Govts. heels !

    I noted the speech of NZF (ex-Lab) minister Shane Jones; talking about the 7 stages of grief from loss.. the majority of Natz MPs are still somewhere between extreme Anger & Denial.. but they will hopefully move to acceptance, then they can get on with a more rational attitude to actually being in Opposition ! 😀 😀 😀

    • The government is a cobbled together selection of the lowest polling parties. They may have a mandate under MMP, but there’s fully 45% of the population deeply unhappy that Peters never entered into meaningful negotiations with the highest party. They will pay for that Zedd; nobody I know thinks the majority party should roll over for this collective. If they continue reneging on things, as it looks like they’re all doing, there will be hell to pay

      • Blazer

         /  November 10, 2017

        are you advocating ..anarchy..because you didn’t get what you wanted…45% is not the..majority.

      • robertguyton

         /  November 10, 2017

        They do have a mandate under MMP. It’s all you need to know. As for “reneging”; remember the promise from Key and English not to raise GST?
        New Zealanders remember.

        • It’s looking like nobody in this cobble is doing a single thing they promised

          Māori seat vote – nah
          TPP can Foxtrot each – nah
          100,000 houses – er nah
          Greens – carbon footprint can just Alpha Mike Foxtrot apparently. Leader of the hypocrites is winging his way on a double decker gas guzzling budgie

          Off to an appt but this is just a start. People will soon tire of virtue signalling, like bringing the babies to work and mourning the First Cat.

      • Zedd

         /  November 10, 2017

        @trav..

        Lab/NZF/Grns = 63 seats
        Natz/Act = 57 seats

        who really cares whether Natz got the largest individual count.. thats ancient history; FPP
        Welcome to real MMP politics ! 🙂

        “Sore Losers”

        • robertguyton

           /  November 10, 2017

          63 – 57, was it really that much of a whipping? No wonder trav’s grumpy.
          We’d been assured Bill would reign supreme, after all, natural party etc.
          Wha happened???

          • Gezza

             /  November 10, 2017

            Dodgy dodderer did dark deal in dingy digs?

          • Zedd

             /  November 10, 2017

            according to the figures I saw:

            Labour (46) NZF (9) Green (8) = 63
            Natz (56) Act (1) = 57

            Of course those who still have their heads stuck in FPP think Natz ‘deserve’ the win.. BUT it sounds like they still, just dont get MMP ! 🙂

            Maybe Natz needs to learn more about MMP & realise they need ‘friends’ as it is unlikely they will win on their own. If you look at the last two election TV Ads, it was all about ‘Blue team’ V ‘Red/Black/Green’ Which even looked like they decided NZF (Black team) were already with Lab/Grns, before the final numbers/decision was announced. So maybe its time they took a long hard look in the mirror, before 2020 ?? :/

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