For the second successive day, Opposition parties in Parliament hammered away at the government over what they call the “cost-of-living crisis”. Between them National and ACT have made it almost a symphonic chorus. As a coda they ask: why isn’t the government considering tax relief for the embattled inhabitants?
What’s more, they might at last have got on to the wavelength of the average voter. Certainly in pushing into the background the Covid pandemic and focussing on surging prices, the Opposition has thrust the government on to the defensive, and the exchanges at Question Time have become more robust.
Moreover, the government’s tactic of getting their own backbenchers to put up patsy questions to ministers leaves them looking feeble instead of making them sound like they are on the ball.
The media inadvertently aid the Opposition with the stream of reports with headlines like “Why is the price of groceries so high?” and “Inflation forecast to go even higher”.
Yet more fuel was added to the fire over raging inflation by what many think was the failure of the Commerce Commission to strike down the high profits of the supermarket duopoly, particularly as Commerce Minister David Clark had stoked expectations of drastic action.
It’s true that both the PM Jacinda Ardern and her deputy, Grant Robertson, can hold their own in the exchanges, and some might say even repulse their opponents.
But you know Robertson is batting on a sticky wicket when he begins an answer by saying:
“I continue to acknowledge that many households are feeling under greater financial pressure as we work through this period of elevated inflation….”
He says he believes the inflation will be temporary, but the Opposition parties – with the election in mind – see it running through to 2023.
And now with oil prices rising to levels not seen since the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, it is unlikely they will unwind soon. Indeed the rundown of energy reserves has been compounded by the move of global warming-conscious countries of the need to cut back on fossil fuels.
With the government committed to announcing its measures to curb carbon emissions, it is likely to be making another indirect contribution to inflation later this year.
In her responses to what the government is doing about the cost of living, Ardern likes to concentrate on the support the government has provided for low-income earners to counter its impact on household budgets, as she did yesterday:
“ …We’ve overseen a $5 increase in the minimum wage, benefiting around 300,000 workers. We’ve increased Working for Families … [which] will make around 346,000 families better off by an average of $20 each a week. We created the winter energy payment, starting again from 1 May, benefiting over a million New Zealanders during the winter months. We’ve made the largest across the board increases in benefit incomes since the 1940s, and we’ve increased the pay of new police officers by 19 percent since 2017, 16 percent for primary teachers, and 21 percent for new nurses.
“Our Government is choosing to target support to those on low and middle incomes who need help the most through raising wages and increasing support. Families earning between $40,000 and $70,000 will benefit by an average of $21 per week through our proposed increase in the family tax credit rather than the Opposition’s proposal to cut taxes for property speculators and the highest earners”.
This, of course, is very appropriate, and cements in the vote of those low to middle income earners. But those who miss out feel acutely hard done by.
With political polls showing the gap between the main parties has narrowed (and in the case of the Roy Morgan poll disappeared), the focus on the middle, where elections under the MMP system are decided, is clearly paying dividends for the Opposition parties. And the Ardern government has to keep motoring down the road which its driver has chosen.
One thought on “Beneficiaries might be mollified by increased govt supports – but there are lots of votes among those who miss out”
Grant Robertson looks as though he could do with a Rise…………on the end of my boot!! from GTrevor.