Budget 2019, touted as a ‘well-being budget,’ is to be delivered on Thursday 30 May 2019. That means almost all the work has been done. It’s at the stage of fine-tuning and heading for the printers. It’s usually around this time, a month or so out that the prequels, pre-announcements and leaks (planned and unplanned) start to occur.
The Defence Capability Plan Review has not been announced at the time of publication and this is concerning. The review was due to be submitted to Cabinet’s Government Administration and Expenditure Review Committee in December 2018.
The last day that this could have occurred was Thursday 20 December – 111 days or 3 months 21 days ago at time of writing. Earlier this year, Defence Minister Ron Mark casually slipped into a magazine interview that it would be a bit late as he wanted to make sure everything was correct.
This long silence and delay likely means one thing – trouble for the NZ Defence Force’s funding stream. The plan review addresses most of the same $20B identified in the 2016 Defence White paper and committed to by the previous Government. Based on my own experience of defence budget negotiations, Mark has been sent around the track a few times to find ways to spend less and delay expenditure where possible. This despite the fact that the Budget Guidance for agencies specifically mentions the Strategic Defence Policy Statement (July 2018) as a justification for new money bids.
Why? So Grant Robertson can deliver a ‘wellness’ budget – whatever the heck that is? So Jacinda Ardern can pay off her trade union supporters who are again threatening to strike (primary teachers)? So Shane Jones can squander $3B in a futile attempt to buy votes for NZ First?
Perhaps Ron Mark is looking for money in all the wrong places. His colleague has the money, ego and seemingly can act with impunity in regard to risk of the Prime Minister sacking him. Let’s just build a new Joint Operational Base in Northland. We could call it the “Jones Joint Defence Complex.”
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