You know how the government’s short of cash, eh? We’ve all got to accept the cuts, we’re told, because things are so tight. And this government is utterly committed to eliminating low-quality government spending.
Well, Gerry Brownlee is spending $14 billion of your money on highways that don’t make sense on the government’s rosy numbers. They barely break even if rapid traffic volume growth happens – something that hasn’t happened for the past seven years. What’s even more fiscally irresponsible is that he isn’t even going to consider whether they’re still a good idea now the IMF says petrol is heading to $5 a litre. Here he is in the House yesterday:
GENTER: “Does the recently published IMF paper The Future of Oil, which shows real oil prices doubling in the coming decade, sending petrol prices here to $5 a litre, cause him to reconsider the economic rationale for the so-called roads of national significance; and if not, why not?”
BROWNLEE: “I am the Minister of Transport, not an oil speculator for the futures market; therefore, I have no comment on that.”
Nor is he concerned about $6 billion of funding shortfalls because that’s in ‘the future’, which also happens to be when the Roads of national Significance will be built and used – because he’ll be out of office by then (seriously):
GENTER: What is the plan to pay for the Government’s transport expenditure given that the Ministry of Transport’s Briefing to the Incoming Minister warns of a funding shortfall of $4.9 billion if high oil prices and low GDP growth continue?
BROWNLEE: The shortfall referred to by the questioner could occur in the years between 2021 and 2030. It was included in the briefing to the incoming Minister to indicate that if those conditions persisted, it might exist. We are not making plans now for what might happen in 2021, but I do acknowledge the member’s commitment to this Government dealing with these problems in 2021 through to 2030.
GENTER: Is he saying that he is not concerned that his Government’s expensive State highway programme will cost New Zealanders billions, as long as the funding shortfall is well beyond his term?
BROWNLEE: I think my answer is yes, because the roads will cost what they cost, and until we get to 2021, or to some time in that 10-year block out to 2030, we do not know whether there will be a shortfall.
GENTER: Given that the Ministry of Transport officials have consistently warned that there will be a funding gap between revenue raised from road users and planned expenditure, even in this decade, how does he propose to make up the funding shortfall? Will he raise taxes on fuel and road users, will he borrow more, or will he cut some projects?
BROWNLEE: I think the advice that the member has referred to as coming from the Ministry of Transport lacks the ambition that this Government has for growth in the New Zealand economy.
GENTER: I seek leave to table this document from the Ministry of Transport—the Government policy statement 2012 draft Cabinet paper and engagement document—which states that there will be a deficit of about $1.5 billion between forecast revenue and target Government policy statement expenditure before 2020.
That’s just reckless. A complete lack of responsibility. And he’s playing with our money.