Budget delivered, especially for working families

Steven Joyce has delivered his first budget. It will get dissected and analysed by media, and criticised by opposition parties, but it is likely to be a budget designed to tempt voters in election year.

Surplus: Treasury forecasts a $1.6bn surplus in 2017, climbing to $7.2bn in 2021.

Family Incomes Package

The Government’s $2 billion per year Family Incomes Package will make changes to tax thresholds, Working for Families and the Accommodation Supplement to help Kiwi families get ahead.

Income tax: The $14,000 tax threshold is raised to $22,000 and the $48,000 threshold to $52,000. The government estimates this will mean $11 a week more for people in the lower threshold and up to $20 a week more for those in the higher band.

Family incomes: Working for Families tax credit rates for children under 16 go up. The eldest child credit is a maximum $101.98 a week and $91.25 for every subsequent child. But the point where tax credits start reducing kick in at a lower income level ($35,000 compared to $36,500 previously).

Independent earner tax credit: The credit for people earning from $24,000 to $48,000 and not receiving a benefit, superannuation or Working for Families is scrapped. It was worth up to $10 a week.

From 1 April 2018, the Package:

  • Increases the $14,000 income tax threshold to $22,000, and the $48,000 tax threshold to $52,000.
  • Discontinues the Independent Earner Tax Credit.
  • Increases the Family Tax Credit rates for young children to the level of those for children aged 16 to 18.
  • Increases the Accommodation Supplement maximum amounts to reflect 2016 rents and makes some changes to Accommodation Supplement areas.
  • Increases weekly Accommodation Benefit payments by up to $20 for eligible Student Allowance recipients.

Housing costs: The accommodation supplement goes up by an average $36 per week. More areas are eligible for the higher payments; for example, people living in tourist hotspots such as Queenstown, Wanaka and Tauranga, and in all Auckland suburbs, will join central Aucklanders in getting the top payments.

Family Incomes Package Fact Sheets – More information about the $2 billion Family Incomes Package.

Family Incomes Calculator –  How does the Family Incomes Package affect me?

Investing in a Growing Economy

A $935 million package through the Business Growth Agenda to keep building a sustainable growing economy.

  • $372.8 million for the second round of the Government’s Innovative New Zealand programme. It includes:
  • $203 million for Science and Innovation
  • $31.1 million for Economic Development
  • $132.1 million for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment
  • $30.5 million to upgrade and modernise the fisheries management system.
  • $18.4 million to further strengthen the biosecurity system and protect our borders.
  • $4 million to progress New Zealand’s climate change work programme to meet Paris Agreement 2030 emissions targets.
  • $8.7 million for initiatives to support pay equity dispute resolution and Holidays Act compliance.

 

Public Services for a Growing Country

A $5.4 billion Operating and $1.4 billion Capital package to deliver better public services for a growing country.

The Government is allocating $7 billion in Budget 2017 to sustain and expand public services, including:

  • $3.9 billion in New Zealand’s Health Sector, including $1.76 billion in direct new money for District Health Boards, $1.54 billion for care and support workers plus increased investments in disability support services, ambulance services, pharmaceuticals, mental health services, elective surgery and primary health care.
  • $1.1 billion in New Zealand’s Education Sector, including $767 million for funding roll growth and demand, a $61 million increase in operational grant funding for schools, and $35 million in targeted additional funding for early childhood centres.
  • $1.2 billion for law and order, including for a 10 per cent increase in police staff numbers and funding to meet increased demand for justice, courts and corrections services, plus new initiatives in burglary prevention, reducing youth reoffending, and supporting at-risk prisoners.
  • $803 million for other social services, including $184.7 million for social housing services, $64.4 million for supporting people into employment, and $424.4 million for the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki.

Budget 2017 includes $321 million in funding for fourteen cross-agency Social Investment initiatives that are designed to tackle long term social issues for vulnerable New Zealanders.

Mental health: $224m over four years for mental health services including for a fund to trial new addiction and mental health treatment approaches, $11.6m to help Corrections manage prisoners at risk of self harm.

Health: $3.9bn for health services bringing the total budget to $16.77bn in 2017/2018.

Social Investment

Budget 2017 continues this approach with a $321 million Social Investment Package.

Infrastructure for a Growing Economy

A $4 billion package of new capital investment to help build the public infrastructure needed to support growth.

The Government is allocating $4 billion in new capital infrastructure spend in Budget 2017 to build the necessary infrastructure for a growing economy, including:

  • $812 million for the reinstatement of State Highway One north and south of Kaikōura.
  • $450 million for rail infrastructure and rolling stock for KiwiRail’s rail freight business, $436 million for the first stage of Auckland’s City Rail Link, and $98.4 million for upgrades to Wellington’s commuter rail network.
  • $392.4 million for six new schools, two school expansions, 11 special education satellite units, and 305 additional classrooms nationwide.
  • $150 million in additional capital towards the new building programme for hospitals around New Zealand.
  • $576 million for the Defence Force for new equipment and the commencement of the upgrading of the Defence Estate.
  • $763.3 million for new prison capacity around New Zealand.
  • $100 million to expand the Government’s programme to release Crown land for housing development around the country.
  • $63 million for investing in new water storage infrastructure in regional New Zealand.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/331570/budget-2017-at-a-glance

 

A moment of mis-truth?

Kim Dotcom dived into the Seth Rich issue, promising #GameChanger inteview with Sean Hannity on Tuesday. But Fox News retracted a story – see Fox retracts Seth Rich story – and on his Tuesday show Hannity said ““Out of respect for the family, I am not discussing this matter at this time.”

And suggestions have been raised about the possibility Dotom tried to manufacture some ‘truth’.

Washington Post: The life and death of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory

When Seth Rich’s Gmail account received an alert this week from Mega.com, attempting to start a new account on a website created by the New Zealand-based Internet businessman and convicted hacker Kim Dotcom, his family knew that something was off.

Over seven frenzied days, Dotcom had become a leading purveyor of the theory that Rich, a staffer at the Democratic National Committee who was shot dead near his home in Northeast Washington last summer, had supplied DNC documents to WikiLeaks and was killed as a result. Multiple security analysts and an FBI investigation have tied the release to hackers with ties to Russia. D.C. police have said repeatedly that they think Rich was slain in a random robbery attempt.

According to experts and Rich’s family, the emailed invitation from welcome@mega.nz appeared to be an attempt to gain access to Rich’s email. Joel Rich, who maintains his late son’s Gmail account, did not click the link. Meanwhile, Dotcom was promising on Twitter to prove that the younger Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks — and Fox News host Sean Hannity was telling his 2.37 million Twitter followers to be ready for a revelation.

Hannity had invited Dotcom to appear on his show for what he said on Twitter would be a “#GameChanger” interview. The implication: that Dotcom would finally offer evidence of his claim that Rich had sent internal DNC documents to WikiLeaks before his death

But that hasn’t transpired.

All that began to unravel Tuesday afternoon, when Fox News retracted a story that had claimed the same Rich-WikiLeaks connection, telling readers that the article was “not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.” Fox News did not respond to a request for comment, but Dotcom wrote on his website that he would not speak further about his allegations.

The latest revelation — that a hacker from New Zealand may have been trying as recently as this week to hack into Rich’s email — offered fresh evidence that the conspiracy theory is false. Dotcom, it seemed, may have been willing to create a fake archive of emails from Rich to “prove” his role in the DNC hack.

Shades of 2014, when Dotcom’s ‘Moment of Truth’ show in the lead up to New Zealand’s general election fizzled when questions were raised about the authenticity of an email produced by Dotcom.

In a statement, Rich’s family told The Post that they wereinvestigating whether someone attempted to gain access to Rich’s email account. “We are outraged that certain individuals continue to try to use Seth’s name and memory to advance their political and ideological agendas,” they said. “We hope people will think twice the next time someone makes an outlandish claim to have discovered new evidence in this case.”

A family spokesman went further, criticizing Fox News for fanning the flames.

Dotcom’s story has ‘evolved’.

Dotcom did not respond to an emailed question about the Mega account, but his story about Rich has altered since some attention-grabbing tweets. On May 16, he mentioned Rich for the first time, after a follower asked what he thought of the conspiracy theory that Rich was tied to the release of thousands of internal DNC documents.

On May 19, Dotcom asked for Google to release the contents of Rich’s Gmail account, as well as two accounts that online sleuths had claimed belonged to him.

Later that day, Dotcom said that he was willing to “give written testimony with evidence” that Rich had passed the DNC documents to WikiLeaks.

That attracted the interest of Hannity, who had devoted several segments of his radio and TV show to the conspiracy theory. Dotcom then claimed that he would be able to reveal what he knew after talking to lawyers.

But in a Tuesday message that Dotcom posted on his website, he claimed only to know that “Seth Rich was involved” in the DNC hack, and that he would give his full statement after a “guarantee from Special Counsel [Robert S.] Mueller, on behalf of the United States, of safe passage from New Zealand to the United States and back.”

So it sounds like we won’t be getting a full statement. It’s unlikely the US will give Dotcom safe passage to allow him to grandstand on Fox’s Hannity show.

Dotcom is linked to Wikileaks.

WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange had persistently fed rumors of a connection with Rich without providing evidence. He has offered a $20,000 reward for information about Rich’s killer, and he has used an interview with Dutch television, an interview with Hannity and several tweets to suggest that Rich’s case showed why WikiLeaks sources tread carefully. He has never explicitly said whether Rich was a source.

But Dotcom did.

The collapse of the story came only after a number of conservative voices drew attention to it. On Monday, Rush Limbaugh told listeners that Dotcom was “renowned” and “world famous,” with a story to tell.

“This story is now starting to get legs, that Seth Rich was murdered, it was a contract hire killing because he was leaking to WikiLeaks,” Limbaugh said.

On Tuesday, Hannity told his radio listeners that he would keep fighting to disprove “this Russia collusion narrative” and be proven right.

“I will do the mainstream media’s job like I have for most of my career,” Hannity said. “All you in the liberal media, I am not Fox.com or FoxNews.com. I retracted nothing.”

But…

…on the Tuesday night episode of Hannity’s show — the one that conspiracy theorists hoped would showcase the “game-changer” interview with Dotcom — Hannity said he had exchanged letters which Rich’s family and would not discuss the story.

“Out of respect for the family, I am not discussing this matter at this time,” Hannity said. “But to the extent of my ability I am not going to stop trying to find the truth.”

In the meantime he could stop promoting fake truth.

MacGregor versus Craig

Yesterday Colin Craig cross examined Rachel MacGregor in the Craig v Slater defamation trial. She was very different to when she gave evidence in Williams v Craig, in this case making a range of serious accusations against Craig.

What has changed? Time. Craig questioning MacGregor rather than via a lawyer. Fed up with being dragged through court again?

The reactions of MacGregor in court yesterday makes me wonder what has sparked what appears to be an all out attack on Craig.

MacGregor was called to give evidence by Slater’s legal team, not by Craig. And Craig chose to defend himself, this may be backfiring badly.

RNZ: Former staffer says Craig tried to pressure her into sex

Ms MacGregor told the court the former head of the Conservative Party did not pay for the work she invoiced for.

Instead he paid her advances because they could not agree on her hourly rate.

He also gave her an $18,000 loan that included interest at 29 percent. Mr Craig began charging her interest once she left her job.

Ms MacGregor told the court Mr Craig was trying to put her under financial pressure so she would sleep with him.

She said it was also convenient he had deleted text messages that would disgust the court and the New Zealand public if they were revealed.

Stuff: MacGregor accuses Craig of doctoring texts

On Wednesday when Craig, who is representing himself, cross examined his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, she refused to accept the authenticity of text exchanges shown in the screenshots.

“Just to be clear I don’t accept any of these text messages,” MacGregor said.

“Why’s that, Ms MacGregor?” Justice Toogood asked.

MacGregor said she doubted Craig had been able to take screenshots from his old Nokia cellphone.

“I do [doubt it] because he has doctored so many of these text messages,” she said to Justice Toogood.

The screenshots were selective in that they mostly showed texts MacGregor sent, but many of Craig’s texts were missing, the court had earlier heard.

“Also I believe that you got these text messages from a convicted criminal with dishonesty charges,” she said.

“Unless you can get something from a reliable source – not someone who’s been in jail – then I’m not prepared to give evidence off documents like this.”

MacGregor was referring to former Christchurch detective Mike Chappell, who was convicted on 10 dishonesty charges in 2002, and who Craig employed to recover texts forensically.

The text evidence did look shaky.

In court on Wednesday, when Craig persisted by trying to confirm whether she had sent a text offering to “loosen up his shoulders,” MacGregor rose to her feet and asked Justice Toogood: “Why are you accepting this, considering it’s come from a criminal?”

“Mr Craig is entitled to put it to you because his evidence is that these are legitimate text exchanges between you,” Justice Toogood said.

“I’m just wanting you to understand that this is your opportunity to influence the findings of fact that I might make. This is your only opportunity to do that.”

“I don’t understand how this is an opportunity for me,” said MacGregor, who was under subpoena to give evidence.

She began to cry, and said to Craig: “You put me under huge pressure during this time. I can’t believe I’m being made to stand in front of the man that did this to me.”

MacGregor has been forced into this situation, but she certainly came out firing against Craig yesterday.

NZ Herald: Colin Craig v Cameron Slater – The end is nigh

Their defamation trial looks set to fizzle out on Friday, Monday at latest, forcing Justice Kit Toogood to bend his red gleaming head to the task of finding justice in the swirling mess of a sexless sex scandal.

Craig, the former leader of the Conservative Party, claims Cameron Slater libelled him on his Whale Oil blog. Slater has responded in kind, citing Craig’s booklet Dirty Politics.

Much of their argument concerns what can be reasonably said about Craig’s relationship with his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor.

MacGregor was called to give evidence against Craig. She did not want to appear. More to the point she demonstrably did not want to be in the same room as Craig.

MacGregor’s loathing for Craig could be felt all through the upstairs courtroom. It was like a stiff breeze moving in from the South Pole. It iced over the black-patterned carpet, it sealed the door, perhaps it turned down the central heating.

He read out a text that he said she had once sent him: “Miss you. Thank you being so wonderful.”

She said it was a fake text, that he’d doctored it. Justice Toogood interrupted, and read out other texts that Craig has produced in evidence. One to her parents, another to a friend. Did she accept those texts were real? She accepted they most likely were.

She also disputed a memo. “I’m sorry, Your Honour, but I’m just not comfortable with it,” she said.

“Well,” said Toogood, “comfortable or not, it’s part of the evidence of Mr Craig that he has sent to you, Miss MacGregor, so he’s entitled to ask you questions about it.”

While MacGregor has been forced by subpoena to appear as a witness it seems like she may have been schooled up for this appearance.

The case also adjourned early on Tuesday. This seems odd after the judge complained last week about how the case was dragging out.

According to ‘Whaleoil Staff’ today will be a day off, no reason given, and the case will resume with Craig’s cross examination of MacGregor on Friday.

Whale Oil was down in the dumps after Monday in court, thought it was the “best day in court ever!” on Tuesday and described yesterday as “a red letter day in court”.

Since things have been going better for Team Slater Whale Oil posts have been appearing in the evening and then more or less repeated the following morning.

Only getting snippets via media and Whale oil it is hard to know how the trial is going for both sides, apart from highlighting some shoddy stuff from both.

I have seen quite a bit to dislike about both Craig and Slater. I’m really not sure what to make of MacGregor this time in court. I’m sure she’s been poorly treated by Craig, and relationship breakdowns (professional or personal) can result in acrimony and sometimes payback. I’m not in a position to judge what exactly is going on in this case between MacGregor and Craig, except that it looks ugly.

I expect the judge will reserve his decision and then take some time to go over everything before giving his judgment.

Robertson pre-empts budget

Labour’s finance spokesperson has pre-empted the deliver to the budget today with criticisms in advance and a promise of much better things if Labour forms the next government (if that happens shouldn’t he have pre-empted jointly with Greens and NZ First?).

Grant Robertson: Labour ready to deliver a fresh approach

These are the key questions New Zealanders need answered in today’s Budget:

  •  After nine years of denial, have they done something that will finally fix the housing crisis and get New Zealanders affordable homes?
  •  Have they done enough to turn around their legacy of neglect in mental health and their $1.7 billion of health service cuts?
  •  Have they given schools the operational funding they need to they can keep the lights on, pay their bills and make up for last year’s funding freeze?
  •  Have they given the Police the resources they need to keep our communities safe?
  •  After nine years of failing to contribute a single cent to the Super Fund, will they finally do the right thing by future generations?
  •  Have they finally recognised New Zealanders birth right – to swim in clean rivers and streams and properly resourced making all waterways swimmable?

When Labour has the opportunity to lead the next Government, the budget that I deliver will set out a plan to give New Zealanders some hope for them and their families and to begin to address the shortfalls and shortcomings of National’s approach.

Our Kiwibuild programme will deliver homes to first-home buyers. They will be sold at cost, and the proceeds used to build more homes. 100,000 over 10 years – all affordable, all within reach of young New Zealanders.

Labour will close the tax loophole that effectively amounts to a taxpayer subsidy to speculators of $150m a year and helps them outbid home buyers, and then pump those savings into grants for home heating and insulation.

Labour’s next budget will invest in health, including funding primary healthcare, homecare, breakthrough life-saving cancer medicines and mental health services.

It will end the freeze on operational funding, which is a huge strain on already stressed school budgets. Parents are forking out more and more in “donations”.

Labour will invest in education, so schools can get on with teaching, not begging for money. We will introduce three years of free post-school education to help prepare our young people for the changing world.

Our budget will also be the first where a government is held accountable by an independent body to a set of Budget Responsibility Rules. We understand that the public needs to know that we will be responsible and prudent, with our spending phased and focused to achieve results.

New Zealand is a relatively wealthy country. We are blessed with wonderful natural resources and talented people. Now is the time to harness the potential of every single one of us, and give everyone a fair shot at success and a share in prosperity. We can do better than what will be put on offer by National today. It’s time for a fresh approach.

It’s not time yet – that will be next May at the earliest, if Labour forms the next Government with either or both the Greens and NZ First, and if Robertson is the new Minister of Finance.

Budget day

The national Government’s ninth and Steven Joyce’s first budget will be delivered this afternoon.


Hon Steven Joyce, Minister of Finance

The Minister of Finance will deliver the Budget Speech – the Statement introducing the Appropriation (2017/18 Estimates) Bill in the House of Representatives – at approximately 2pm on Budget Day, Thursday, 25 May 2017.

Release of Budget Material

Budget material will be released here at 2pm on Budget Day.


My prediction – the Government will claim it is a ‘just right’ Goldilocks budget, while opposition parties will claim it is a three bears budget – too hot, too cold, too lumpy and too smooth.

See The budget drip feed

Trump trip – what’s on a head?

Some curious choices over what has been worn on heads by Donald Trump, his wife and his daughter on visits to religious states.

When in Saudi Arabia…

CNN: Melania and Ivanka Trump arrive in Saudi Arabia sans headscarves

First lady Melania Trump and first daughter Ivanka Trump arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday morning sporting an absence of headscarves.

When asked why the Trumps went without scarves, the White House responded that they were not required to wear them.

Although they decided to forgo the headwear, both women were dressed conservatively in long pants and dresses.

TrumpsSaudiHeads.jpg

Their choice of dress during the first stop on President Donald Trump’s inaugural trip abroad is notable because Trump criticized first lady Michelle Obama for making the same decision two years earlier – “Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf enemies.”

One of many Trump contradictions.

When in Israel…

Ivanka was raised a Presbytarian, Her husband is Jared Kushner Jewish and she converted to Judaism before marrying him in 2009.

Trump followed local custom too (he is Presbytarian):

TrumpWesternWall

This was particularly notable because Trump was the first US president to visit the wall.

However is this in Israel?

When in the Vatican…

TrumpsVatican

CNN: Melania Trump wears veil, but not a headscarf

Melania Trump has dutifully considered every outfit she has worn during her first trip abroad as first lady — her visit with Pope Francis on Wednesday was no exception.

With Vatican protocol in mind, the first lady arrived to meet the Pope on Wednesday wearing a black veil and long-sleeved Dolce and Gabbana black dress draped down to her calf. President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, wore a similar outfit with a larger veil.

“Per Vatican protocol, women who have an audience with the Pope are required to wear long sleeves, formal black clothing, and a veil to cover the head,” Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, told CNN.

Days earlier, during her visit to Saudi Arabia, a strictly conservative Muslim theocracy, the first lady eschewed the customary headscarf, but stepped foot in the birthplace of Islam wearing a black jumpsuit reminiscent of the abaya worn by most women there. Despite not covering her head, the first lady’s outfit earned her rave reviews from the local press, who praised her attention to the country’s culture.

When asked why she wore a veil at the Vatican but eschewed a head covering in Saudi Arabia, Grisham said there was no request or requirement for her attire from that country.

Melania Trump has prepared extensively, with the help of State Department officials, on the proper protocol and customs for each of the stops on the foreign trip, according to sources familiar with the preparations. She wanted to ensure a smooth debut on the world stage as first lady and avoid any embarrassing missteps.

So presumably Saudi customs and protocols were checked out before deciding what to wear or not to wear. I guess this is just a part of state visits. However there were no Saudi women at the state occasions there.

When in the US…

SalmanWhiteHouse

However it is one way – leaders who traditionally wear something on their heads keep them on when visiting. This is Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and defence minister Mohammed bin Salman at the White House on 14 March.

 

Media watch – Thursday

25 May 2017

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Open Forum – Thursday

25 May 2017

Facebook: NZ politics/media+

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts.

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

World watch

Wednesday GMT

WorldWatch

Post news or views on anything happening of interest around the world.

Auditor general to stand down

Stuff: Auditor-General Martin Matthews to stand down pending independent inquiry

The Offices of Parliament Committee decided unanimously to undertake an independent inquiry into Auditor-General Martin Matthews’ suitability for the position.

He will stand down in the meantime. Review is expected to take a fortnight and will be done by Sir Martin Weevers.

The committee, who appointed  Matthews in the job, earlier met at 4pm to discuss his handling of fraudster Joanne Harrison while he was chief executive of the Ministry of Transport (MoT).

Speaker expects Ministry of Transport to completely comply with investigation, which will determine suitability of Matthews in the position of Auditor General.

I think that this was inevitable.