The only thing missing was the mournful playing of violins, when Finance Minister Grant Robertson answered a question – the patsiest of patsies – from Labour backbencher Kiritapu Allan.
The question had the potential to keep Robertson on his feet for the rest of the Parliamentary session: what feedback has the Government received on the Families Package?
Alas, all we can know for sure from Robertson’s reply is that the Government received one letter (or maybe it was an email). He said:
The Government is already receiving supportive feedback from New Zealanders in anticipation of the full impact of the Families Package coming into effect on 1 July.
Writing to the Prime Minister, one mother said, “Seeing the Families Package and everything else that you have done and my family actually benefiting from it, I feel so much lighter. We both work hard, but we felt like we were just working to pay the bills, with no money left for other necessities—e.g., clothing and medical.”
The correspondent goes on, “I no longer feel like a failure, although in my kids’ eyes I know I’m not. So thank you, again, for making it better for us parents to help keep our children healthy, safe, fed, warm, and happy. With a tear in my eye, I just can’t thank you enough.”
I’m proud of this Government for assisting Kiwi families who found it tough just to get on for far too long.
On the evidence he furnished, however, we don’t know much about the public’s reaction to the policy.
Or maybe we should we blame the Speaker, who warned the Minister against regaling the House with pap. Supplementary replies “are going to be succinct, given the extreme length of the initial answer”, he warned.
Robertson accordingly produced a shorter letter in response to Allan’s next question, which was to ascertain what feedback the Government has received on the winter energy payment.
Again, the MP (and everybody tuned in to hear the answer) was given a sample of one grateful citizen. Robertson said:
We’ve heard from Kiwis who have found themselves in tough circumstances as a result of not being able to pay the power bills.
As one correspondent said, “Thank you so much, for the extra money for power. What an amazing surprise and relief that is. As a sickness beneficiary trying to balance unwellness, finances, and life on the bare minimum, which can be challenging, the extra money will make such a difference.”
National’s Amy Adams tried to get some hard data by asking how many New Zealand families, either by number or proportion, will in fact be worse off as a consequence of the decisions in the mini-Budget and the imposition of new and additional petrol taxes?
She was disappointed.
Robertson said he didn’t have all that information with him
“ … but what I can say is that 384,000 families will be better off by $75 per week, on average, when this package is fully rolled out.”
We encourage Adams to try again, preferably by making it a primary question which obliges the Minister to turn up with the data she seeks.