In The Lock-Up


ERIC SHUFFLED BACK to the desk at which he had only just managed to wrangle a seat. God! How he hated these Budget lock-ups! It wasn’t just the security guards and the inevitable lanyards, it was the inescapable feeling that he was the stupidest person in the room. If it wasn’t the world-weary Gen-Xers, with their “God, I’m so bored.”, expressions, it was the eager-beaver Millennials, flipping their way through the chin-high piles of documents like they actually knew what they were looking for – which most of them, almost certainly, did. Eric didn’t even know where to start – had no idea why he was here.

“Don’t worry about the numbers,” his editor had cautioned him, “we’ve got others who can crunch those. What I’m wanting from you, Eric, is an assessment of Robertson himself. How convincing is his act? Does he come across as a man who knows more than he’s letting on, or, as a poor, exhausted schmuck, who’s just counting down the days until the agony of the Finance Portfolio becomes someone else’s problem?”

He had tried to explain to his 40-something boss that politicians like Robertson had become so good at putting up a front that it was almost impossible to see through it. But, it hadn’t done any good. His boss seemed to believe that, as a person in his late-60s; someone who could actually remember Rob Muldoon and the New Zealand that existed before Rogernomics; he possessed supernatural powers of political perception. He just couldn’t get it through to his boss that no matter how much he had seen of it, politics and politicians could still surprise him. If he could predict the future, then he sure as hell wouldn’t be earning his living tapping away interminably on a bloody keyboard!

If only they let you smoke in here! Reflexively, Eric reached for the last sausage roll left on the lunch platter – only to discover that the sauce bowl had been wiped clean. Damn! Now he was bound to send showers of flaky pastry all over the lapels of his crumpled sports jacket – again.

And right there, with impeccable timing, was Robertson, closely followed by Hipkins, taking their places behind the twinned lecterns. Chewing frantically, Eric, retrieved his notebook and pen, cleared a small space on the desktop, and waited for Robertson to speak.

“This has been a particularly difficult Budget to pull together”, he began. “On the one hand, I was determined to help wage and salary earners keep their heads above water in the face of a worsening cost-of-living crisis. On the other hand, I did not want to pump so much money into the economy that Adrian Orr, the Reserve Bank Governor, felt obliged to raise interest rates to even more ruinous levels and plunge the economy into recession.

As Eric swallowed the last of his cold and rather dry sausage roll, it occurred to him that the Finance Minister wasn’t actually talking like a Finance Minister. This was a level of honesty to which most politicians seldom rose. What was Robertson playing at?

“All the advice I was receiving urged me to offer up a few symbolic crumbs: extending ECE assistance payments to 2-year-olds; subsidising public transport fares; abolishing prescription charges. Just enough to reaffirm our identity as a Labour government. Crumbs aside, however, we should spend only what’s required to keep the machinery of state turning. A “No Frills” budget that offers bugger-all bread and even less butter.”

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Eric, enthralled, reached for his coffee. It would be cold by now, but he needed something to wash the sausage roll down.

“But then,” said Robertson, pausing for dramatic effect, “I thought – fuck it.”

Erics’s coffee sprayed heroically over the piles of budget documents in front of him. Were his ears deceiving him?

“Why should the poorest New Zealanders be expected to suffer the heaviest casualty-count in the battle against inflation? Why should a handful of unelected Reserve Bank officials be able to blackmail a democratic government by threatening to throw the entire economy into reverse? The welfare of the country’s most vulnerable citizens has to be our priority. It is simply outrageous that families are being forced to choose between paying the rent and feeding their kids. They need more money and, by God, we’re going to give it to them!”

Eric’s eyes widened in disbelief. In 40 years of covering politics he had never heard a Finance Minister talk like this.”

“That’s why I have today written to the Reserve Bank Governor, formally instructing to cap the OCR at 5 percent until further notice.”

Jesus! Eric let out a low whistle. Robertson was breaking all the rules.

Then it was Hipkins’ turn.

“Thanks, Grant. It feels good to have those neoliberal shackles off our hands and feet, doesn’t it? But, it feels even better to announce that over the next three months the Government will be introducing a Wealth Tax, a Capital Gains Tax, and adding an additional step to the Income Tax. From 1 April 2024, all those earning over $250,000 per annum will be paying 60 cents in the dollar. Windfall taxes will also be levied on all foreign-owned banks, and upon the supermarket duopoly. Those New Zealanders who do not want their society to become more equitable and more just can, of course, attempt to vote Labour out of office. But, we’re betting the farm that a more equitable and just New Zealand is exactly what a majority of voters want – and, moreover, that they’ve been wanting it for the past 40 years!”

“Eric! Eric!”

The young journalist looked down at the dishevelled old hack, head nestled upon chest, crumpled jacket covered in pastry flakes, drooling slightly from the corner of his mouth, quietly snoring, fast asleep.

“Eric! Eric! Wake up! Robertson’s about to speak.”

Eric sat up with a start, automatically brushing the pastry flakes from his shirt-front. Fumbling inside his jacket for his pad and pen, he glanced up sheepishly at the young journalist and her indulgent smile.

“Sorry. Sorry, luv. I must’ve been dreaming.


  1. An opium dream alright. The Labour Caucus had the mandate in 2020 to sideline Rogernomics and the capital gain based economy-but due to surgically embedded monetarism they had neither the ideological ability nor the guts and enthusiasm to do so.

    • No, Labour didn’t have the mandate to sideline Rogernomics. That is not what they campaigned on. It was all about protecting people from the fiscal impact of Covid. The wage and business subsidies in particular.

      If Labour wants to overturn Rogernomics in the way the Chris Trotter suggests, then they have to campaign on that platform for the 2023 election. The Greens and Te Pati Maori certainly are.

      But what will Labour campaign on? A CGT? A new top tax rate? The first $20,000 of income tax free?Whatever it is, they have to actually campaign on it. Just as National did in 2011 for the partial privatisation of the power companies. It was a specific campaign commitment. That is the expectation upon political parties, and since MMP, has been essentially complied with.

      • Parliamentary Parties do not “have to” do anything, as best illustrated by the stealthy implementation of Roger Douglas’ neo liberal experiment in 1984. Rog’ kept his “fish & chip” brigades plans to allow penetration of the NZ State by private capital well out of public gaze.

        But yes, Parties should ideally be upfront. The point I was making was that NZ Labour had major support and goodwill at the 2020 ballot box and should have used it for some more positive outcomes.

        I know Torys in the North who were totally expectant of all manner of alarming (to them) measures from the majority Govt. including a state house mega build…but never happened.

      • They had no mandate to advance Co Governance and other progressive causes such as school’s encouraging puberty blockers but they did it anyway. So that argument doesnt fly. They simply dont want to because it is not career enhancing, end of.

    • Should have given everyone a UBI and fired the lot of them starting with orange children MBEI consultants and those spooks.

    • Certainly if you thought Labour would actually do that, you must have been asleep during the past 40 years. Labour isn’t Labour anymore Dorothy.

    • Tiger….The Labour caucus was hijacked by the gravy trains , both brown and white gravy….sausage rolls might be fine for Mr Hipkins , but the nibbles on these trains are Vol-Au-Vent’s, Hors d’oeuvre , made from the finest ingredients that can be extracted from the tax payer…..Rolling back Rogernomics was never on the agenda, in fact I’m sure one of the young ones in the party was overheard saying , “ who’s Roger Douglas “ …? It was probably the best and only chance the poor old New Zealand battler’s ever have to rid themselves of the curse of Douglas and his followers…But , as in 1984 , a board room in New York or London was deciding how to divvy up the resources of New Zealand, in 2020 , board rooms in Auckland and Wellington were making plans to do the same …A bloodless coup took over the New Zealand Labour Party and the results will play out in October of this year…..One thing that is guaranteed after the election results are known…The kiwi battler will still be shafted all the way to the foreign bank….

  2. “only to discover that the sauce bowl had been wiped clean”…hahahaha priceless! That was Robertson. He ate all the free sausage rolls and then wiped the Watties sauce bowl clean with four fingers. Then he plunged NZ into bankruptcy. What a great day for Robbo.

    • No there wasnt any tomato sauce, the trans lobby had made off with it and were currently paying obeisance to it!

  3. Very good Chris! LOL

    The budget was Labour pretending to be fiscally sensible just before the election so they can get another 3 years.

  4. Firefighters’ equipment let them down at the Loafers Wellington fire.
    Meanwhile Grant Robertson gives away 34 million dollars of taxpayers’ money to a kapa Haka Festival.

  5. Chris – The intelligent services did well out of the budget…Lord knows why…shockingly bad track record

  6. Shit, I thought this was how the event played out and then you burst my bubble.

    I should have realised you were joking when you said Grant said “I thought, fuck it..” He would never have said something like that out loud!

    He know his weaknesses and strengths.

    Thinking is not one of his strengths.

  7. This is exceptional stuff.
    Chris Hedges.
    14.43 minutes. Go on. You can do it.
    American Psychosis – Chris Hedges on the US empire of narcissism and psychopathy
    It’s obvious, logical, natural, even mathematical that our civilization is going to collapse, that we have overshot the sustainable carrying capacity of the earth and ecosystem that supports us. But people are fed false hope, false positives and magical faiths which extract your agency and distract you from your presence. Held captive by apathy, afraid of your own shadow. PCD

    • Yeah, it’s the end. Capitalism speeds to a cliff. But all of us are comforted by irrelevant present comfort. For me , a dairy’s filled roll with beetroot tomorrow.

      I won’t go on in that vein since it doesn’t address our WW ll crisis times a 1000. So much irrelevance in the Left blogs based on present comfort, which is fundamentally a Right point of view.

      There is no going on but the political parties are locked into not enough and NZ can’t do anything on its own. Time for a talking party, a Trump of the Left.

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