It seems we're drifting back to those bad old days. Earlier this month, Prime Minister John Key signalled to an audience of his friends at a Business New Zealand meeting the promised tax cuts would be delayed to some unspecified time in the future. He said New Zealand could not afford "a runaway balance sheet".
Yet back on September 30 last year, Mr English was mocking then Finance Minister Michael Cullen for being over-cautious on the issue. He said: "Dr Cullen cannot be trusted to deliver on any future tax promises."
He compared that with National which "will have an ongoing programme of personal tax cuts. It will be a responsible programme and a transparent programme".
He said he would treat Labour's tax cuts, which came into force the next day, "as the first tranche on our tax-cut programme. That will be followed by another tranche of tax reductions on April 1, 2009, and further tranches in 2010 and 2011". He declared: "National has structured its credible economic package to take account of the changing international climate. Our tax cut programme will not require any additional borrowing."
A few days later, Mr Key launched "a tax package for our times" that is "appropriate for the current conditions". He said it would require "no additional borrowing, or cuts to frontline services to fund it. There is, in fact, a small saving to be made, of $282 million".
Somehow, cutting taxes dramatically was going to increase government income. On December 16, Mr English was up in the House confirming "National will not be going back on any of those promises, as we fully costed and funded them".
The Government is now making out some economic thunderbolt has suddenly hit New Zealand and thrown their pre-election calculations out the window.
But even economic ignoramuses like myself knew a global crisis was nigh. The experts had been saying so for long enough.
Rudman conveniently overlooks one rather important fact. The $3.1 billion surplus predicted by Mickey Cullen just twelve months ago is now a projected deficit of almost $8 billion - a huge, unparallelled turnaround. We now know that Cullen was less than transparent with Prefu, especially with regard to ACC, and we strongly suspect that he knew that the New Zealand economy was in far worse shape that he ever let on.
But Rudman has done the National Party speechwriters a favour. They now know the line that Labour will take in the Budget Debate which follows Bill English's speech tomorrow afternoon. There will be no alternatives suggested, because Labour has none - that has been abundantly clear for some time now. And of course, it's hard for Labour's economic wizard David Cunliffe to gain traction; he still has the stench of Baygate hanging over him, not to mention the perception of guilt by association over the Bill Liu citizenship rort.
Personally, we'd love to get another tax cut next April, but we accept that the government has limited options. We will however get stroppy if Bill English does anything more than postpone them though!