Pressure on budget spending, except for NZ First policies

Bad Labour, good cop NZ First? Or perhaps that should be tough accountant Labour, generous giver NZ First.

Labour has been highlighting unforeseen shocks putting pressure on budget spending in health and education, but NZ First seems to have no problems getting money to burn for it’s policies.

They had already scored $1 billion a year to hand out to regions, where many NZ First votes come from.

The Government has now announced a $1 billion increase (over four years) in foreign affairs funding, which feeds policies championed by Winston Peters.

Stuff – Budget 2018: ‘Pacific reset’ will increase foreign affairs funding to $1b over four years

New Zealand’s foreign service has been given a massive boost in funding – taking its total four-year vote to near $1 billion – to cater for the Government’s “Pacific reset” and the reopening of an embassy in Sweden.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has unveiled his department’s Budget allocation, at a special announcement ahead of next week’s Government Budget reveal.

The funding boost for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) will also see New Zealand’s diplomatic corps increased by another 50 positions.

Peters said the announcement reflected the “critical role” MFAT played in keeping New Zealand safe and prosperous.

MFAT would receive an operational expenditure increase of $150.4m across four years, and an additional $40.3 in capital expenditure, which would allow for the new embassy that was closed by former National Minister Murray McCully in 2012.

The Government would also be bracing for some big investment in the Dubai World Expo in 2020, and New Zealand’s hosting of the Apec forum in 2021.

Peters also announced a whopping $714.2m allocation to the Official Development Assistance fund – or foreign aid – that will be heavily prioritised towards the Pacific.

He said the funding was a “clear demonstration” to the international community that New Zealand was serious in addressing global and regional challenges and helping people in need”.

“Increased investment will enable New Zealand to deliver on our Pacific Reset. It will bolster our efforts to tackle priority issues like climate change in the region,” said Peters.

This is thought in part aimed at competing with China’s influence in the Pacific.

Peters on The AM Show:

“We don’t have an option, either we step up or someone else will”

“There are countries that have shown interest in the Pacific”

“We cannot just as some people advocate, walk away… that is a futile action to take”

“We’ve got things we’re standing up for and we’re doing it”

Barry Soper: Foreign Minister Winston Peters has the power and he’s using it

Peters has the power and he’s using it and if you agree with the idiom that you’ve got to spend money to make money, then he’s on the mark.

He impressed his audience of diplomats and NGOs last night, underscoring this country’s place in the world. Peters said on the world stage that people look over your shoulder looking at what you’ve spent and said to have to cope with a budget where this country was heading he’d rather give the job to somebody else, it was so embarrassing.

It’s true McCully significantly cut the foreign affairs spend, shaving a hundred diplomats by Peters’ count, and acting like deserters in our Pacific neighbourhood.

The new minister’s going on a diplomat recruitment drive, reopening our embassy in Sweden where he reckons we can do business in that region, and pouring the lion’s share of his new money, more than $700 million, into Pacific aid.

This re-energised Foreign Minister’s adamant the Pacific must remain peaceful, free from the shafts of strife and war that affect many other parts of the world and he reasons if we’re not there some other influence will be. Given the growing influence of China, maybe he’s too late.

He didn’t mention China, he didn’t need to. But this man, who in his last Foreign Affairs incarnation opposed the lucrative free trade agreement with the People’s Republic, has been converted on the road back to the Beehive, declaring “we are a country that trades or dies”.

Except he strongly opposed the TPPA, until he got into Government.

Peters only has the power because Ardern and Labour are allowing it. He doesn’t have many numbers in Caucus and Parliament, but he is being allowed to use them to his advantage.