News and Updates from Bill English
06 December 2013 Accounts on track in four months to October
A combination of slightly higher than expected revenue and lower than
forecast spending left the Government’s operating deficit before gains
and losses almost $400 million smaller than expected at $1.75 billion in
the four months to 31 October.
“The result continues a trend over the past year of the Government’s fiscal results exceeding forecasts, as we remain on track to return to surplus in 2014/15,” Finance Minister Bill English says.
“As the Prime Minister and I have said, getting back to surplus remains a significant challenge. Although the economy is improving and revenue is increasing, there are a lot of other large influences on the Government’s books. These include a growing prominence of financial assets and liabilities, which expose taxpayers to greater volatility.”
The Half Year Update on 17 December will include a full set of new forecasts for both the Government’s books and the economy.
“The accompanying Budget Policy Statement will also confirm that the Government will continue to responsibly manage its own finances and the economy,” Mr English says.
In the four months to October, core Crown tax revenue at $19.34 billion was around $200 million above Budget forecasts. Core Crown spending was about $250 million lower than forecast at $23.32 billion.
“The Government will continue focusing on getting better results from resolving social issues to improve New Zealanders’ lives. This will also deliver better value from government spending in justice, education, welfare and health,” Mr English says.
Continued strength in sharemarkets was reflected in the ACC and New Zealand Super Fund investment portfolios, leaving an operating surplus for the four months of $1.83 billion - almost $3.3 billion better than forecast.
05 December 2013 Constitutional Review Panel report released
The Government has received the Constitutional Advisory Panel’s final report which recommends that the conversation about New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements should continue, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples say.
The 12-member independent panel spent more than six months having a conversation with New Zealanders about our constitutional arrangements. These included the role of the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori representation in Parliament and local government, the Bill of Rights Act and other matters.
“Alongside meetings and hui, the panel received 5259 written submissions indicating interest in the nation’s constitutional framework, although there is no sense of an urgent or widespread desire for change,” Mr English says. “The Government will now consider the CAP’s report and recommendations, including how the conversation might continue.”
Dr Sharples said he was pleased the panel considered a range of fundamental elements of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, including Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
“The Treaty is fundamental to our sense of nationhood, and to who we are as New Zealanders. The question is how we translate that in to increased participation and representation of Maori in our democracy. Those matters will be considered as part of the Government’s response to this report.”
Mr English and Dr Sharples thanked the panel members for their work.
“As the panel itself says, there has been a range of views expressed reflecting the diversity of New Zealand and we appreciate the care that has been taken to ensure New Zealanders’ voices have been heard.”
Copies of the report can be found at www.ourconstitution.org.nz
04 December 2013 Learning Media wind-down completed
The managed wind-down of Learning Media has been completed, Finance
Minister Bill English and Education Minister Hekia Parata say.
“The Learning Media board has managed the wind down in a way that provided certainty of provision for publications such as the School Journal, as well as ensuring staff were treated fairly,” Mr English says.
Ms Parata says she is, “pleased that a New Zealand owned provider, Lift Education, has taken on the publication of the School Journal and Ready to Read series, and that other providers have picked up the other resources.”
Around $4 million of Government support has been provided to Learning Media since early September to enable an orderly wind-down to occur.
“Government contributions have meant all staff have been paid their entitlements in full,” Ms Parata says.
“The board and the Ministry of Education have worked hard to provide transitions for staff, with many moving to the new suppliers and some also moving to the Ministry.”
As a company in its own right, Learning Media’s debts were not guaranteed by the Government.
“Unfortunately, the company’s financial situation meant that its largest creditors, including its bank, have not been paid in full,” Mr English says.
“Learning Media highlights the risks the Government and taxpayers take in owning commercial assets.”
04 December 2013 New range of $4.6b - $5b for share programme
The Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update this month will revise the
estimated range of proceeds from the Government’s share offer programme
to $4.6 billion - $5 billion, Finance Minister Bill English says.
“The revised assumption of share sale proceeds is based on Solid Energy clearly being in no position to be sold anytime soon, and it takes account of other developments and the results of share offers to date,” he told Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee today.
“This is cash the Treasury expects taxpayers to receive, which can be invested in new priority public assets without the Government having to borrow from overseas lenders.”
The Treasury’s early estimates of share offer proceeds in 2011 were between $5 billion and $7 billion, based on five companies being in the programme – including Solid Energy. And, for the purposes of forecasting, the Treasury has assumed sale receipts would be at the $6 billion mid-point of the range.
Excluding Solid Energy from the programme, those earlier assumptions put the estimated proceeds from the share programme at between $4.4 billion and $6.1 billion.
“So we are on track to be within that range,” Mr English says.
The sale of minority stakes in Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy and Air New Zealand has raised almost $4 billion for taxpayers. Genesis Energy’s share offer is planned for the first half of next year, subject to market conditions.
“The share offers are generating billions of dollars of cash for taxpayers, which are being invested in new public assets such as schools and hospitals. The alternatives were not to build these new assets or to borrow the money from overseas lenders – options this Government rejected,” Mr English says.
25 November 2013 Leadership Forum to focus on Asian opportunities
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English leaves tomorrow to lead New
Zealand’s ministerial delegation to the annual Australian New Zealand
Leadership Forum in Sydney.
He will be accompanied by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, Trade Minister Tim Groser and Commerce Minister Craig Foss.
The ninth Forum, which brings together senior politicians, business and academic leaders from both countries, takes place on Wednesday.
“One of the objectives of this year’s Forum is working together to access opportunities in Asia,” Mr English says.
“It’s now 30 years since CER was established and I’m looking forward to meeting leaders from both sides of the Tasman so we can work together to maximise our opportunities in the region.
“From New Zealand’s perspective, the Forum will allow us to engage with ministers in the new Australian Government and agree on the direction of the trans-Tasman work programme for the coming year. That is important as we agree on the next steps in the Single Economic market between our two countries.”
Mr English will speak at the Forum luncheon on Wednesday, along with Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey. While in Sydney, he will also meet a number of business and political leaders, including New South Wales Treasurer Mike Baird.
He returns to New Zealand on Thursday.