Today's budget is a dismal affair, as the government shuffles money around and announces new spending while conveniently forgetting to mention that its a sub-inflation rise and that health and education are going backwards - as they have every year under National (Education has even been cut in nominal terms, falling from $11.5 billion in 2009 to $10.8 billion today). But amongst all the nipping and tucking and trying desperately to pretend that they're actually doing something to earn those fat Ministerial salaries and expense accounts, National has actually done one decent thing: they've raised benefits for the first time in nearly 40 years:
A $790 million package to lift children out of poverty will see benefits rise beyond inflation for the first time in 30 years, but it won't come for free.
The Government also imposing stricter work obligations.
The package, announced in the Governnment's Budget on Thursday, will give families on benefits with children a $25-a-week boost to their incomes, while-low income working families will get at least $12.50 a week extra.
The increase to benefits is the first, beyond inflation, since 1977.
Its not enough to restore living standards to the levels they were pre-Richardson, of course, let alone provide the decent support every kiwi needs, and its tied to more work obligations, which means that the increase will be eaten by childcare and transport costs. But its something. And its more than Labour ever did. As with housing, they're doing as little as they possibly can - but it looks like the left have won the argument on child poverty and benefit levels as well. The question is whether Labour will recognise this, or still remain committed to shitting on the poor in an effort to win the votes of the selfish rich.