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The Detail – a podcast from RNZ/ Newsroom: The Wellbeing Budget + some observations from Adam


A Podcast from RNZ and Newsroom

This podcast was summarised on the RNZ website thus:

‘The world’s first “Wellbeing Budget” will be unveiled on Thursday

Yet this statement, when it is considered rationally is nonsensical. All governments across the world do not typically announce that their budget is about making their electorates unhappy or worse off. All governments seek to present their budgets as improving the lot of the people, i.e. their wellbeing.

So from the start this budget is being marketed under a false prospectus. Then let us take account of this article from Peter Dunne at Newsroom a few days ago.

The Government’s much-vaunted “Wellbeing Budget” will not be a bold break from the past but most likely just a repackaging of the approach of most of the last decade, writes Peter Dunne.

This is an article well worth reading, but I will quote another extract:

we are being led to believe that this represents a vastly different approach to Budgets than has been the case until now, with this Government at the helm of a much more holistic and thorough approach to the Budget process than has ever gone on before.

Well, unfortunately for its narrative, this is not the case. Labour likes to think that the nine years of the previous National-led government, and to some extent the Labour-led government before it, were years of wasted opportunity, where no innovative thinking, outside perhaps the so-called Cullen Fund for retirement savings, and Kiwisaver, happened, and that, consequently, their historic mission is to fill the yawning social, philosophic, and compassion gap.

The truth is somewhat different.

Treasury’s Living Standards Framework upon which the Government is placing so much emphasis has been in development since 2011, and the 2012 Welfare Reforms first introduced the notion of a social investment approach, looking to evaluate the long-term return from investing in social services, and to use this information to target future spending. That is barely different from the Prime Minister’s 2019 Davos commitment to use the Budget process to gauge the long-term impact of policy on the quality of people’s lives

Dunne debunks the Ardern/Robertson spin, that the Detail podcast perpetuates


Prime Minister Bill English told Parliament when debating the 2017 Budget, “We are unashamedly addressing the hard core of New Zealand’s longest-run social problems, and in this Budget there are 14 initiatives that do that … we are making some progress because what is the point of having a Government if it cannot deal with the most complex, the most vulnerable?”

Again, sentiments that would not have been out of place in the Prime Minister’s Davos speech in January.

What all this shows is that the work towards what is now being promoted as the bold and innovative Wellbeing Budget has actually been ongoing for most of the last decade and is not some dramatic new concept developed by the current Government. Indeed, many of the types of steps likely to form part of the “wellness and wellbeing” Budget’s measures have already been underway for some years.

So we are being sold a bill of goods, in fact Bill English’s goods repackaged and resold with an Ardern/Robertson label, which NZ’s credulous and sycophantic media lap up.

Ministers have traditionally competed for a piece of the billion dollar pie.

“We’re talking about new spending because most of the budgets are pretty set particularly for health, education [and] welfare” says the NBR’s political editor, Brent Edwards.

Edwards says in previous budgets, the final say goes to the treasury and “a small cabal of ministers, the finance minister and his associate.”

This year the government has changed tack.

This podcast was not a good one in my opinion. RNZ seem to have bought into the PR message of Ardern and Robertson. My interpretation might be wrong, but frankly the way the podcast was setup seemed to me to reflect government spin, not reality.

According to Newsroom,

Newsroom has been commissioned by the RNZ/NZ On Air Innovation Fund to produce a new daily news podcast designed to explain the stories behind the headlines. 

Called ‘The Detail’, it aims to help listeners dive deeper into the big stories to help give an understanding of what’s really going on. We will pick out the news that matters and explain it in detail and in context.

The Detail will be fronted by journalists Sharon Brettkelly and Alex Ashton, and produced by Alexia Russell. We will be drawing on not only Newsroom’s award-winning journalists, but the best reporters from throughout the country; along with experts in their fields.

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