This is how Aussies see our budget:
THE Kiwis may consistently flog Australia in rugby, but if welfare and whingeing were a competiÂtion we would be the undisputed champion.
Even after Joe Hockeyâ€™s tough budget, Australiaâ€™s welfare mountain will still dwarf anything across the Tasman.
The culmination ofÂ almost two decades of mainly populist budgets, the Abbott government will spend $6200 a person on cash welfare next year, over 25 per cent more than New Zealandâ€™s government will on each of its citizens (converting all amounts to Australian dollars).
Education spending, at $2900 a person, is 10 per cent more generous in Australia but health expenditure is torrential by comparison: Australian state and federal governments will lavish more than $4600 a person to keep Australians alive and healthy, almost 50 per cent more than is spent in New Zealand. No methodological quibble could bridge such stark differences.
The relative splurge extends to hiring, too. Australiaâ€™s population of 23.5 million is about 5.2 times New Zealandâ€™s, but as of June last year we had 8.4 times as many public servants: 1.89 million across our state, federal and local governments compared with New Zealandâ€™s 226,000.
If the federal government overnight reduced welfare, health and education spending to New Zealand levels it would be rolling in a $40 billion budget surplus next year rather than wallowing in deficit until 2018 or even later.
Australiansâ€™ hysterical reaction to the Coalitionâ€™s first budget must bemuse New Zealanders, especially since Treasurer Bill English said last week that he would cut public spending as a share of gross domestic product by more than twice as much as the Abbott government has announced.
In fact, without a minerals boom to line government coffers and despite a huge repair bill from two devastating earthquakes, New Zealandâ€™s budget will be back in surplus by $NZ400 million ($370m) next financial year, rising to $NZ3.5bn by 2018.
English, now in his sixth year as New Zealandâ€™s Treasurer, commendably chose not to emulate the worldâ€™s greatest treasurer Wayne Swan and kept a tight leash on public spending before and after the global financial crisis, preferring to cut income taxes and lift consumption tax. The Key government, facing election again later this year, is now reaping the rewards.