No CGT but . . .

April 18, 2019

The government is not going to adopt a capital gains tax .

The backdown has cost $2 million and 18 months of uncertainty but Simon Bridges point out there will be more taxes:

“While the Government has backed down on a Capital Gains Tax, there are still a range of taxes on the table. They include a vacant land tax, an agricultural tax and a waste tax.

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she personally still wants a Capital Gains Tax and that our tax system is unfair. New Zealanders simply can’t trust Labour when it comes to tax. 

“The New Zealand economy has suffered while the Government has had a public discussion about a policy they couldn’t agree on. Put simply, this is political and economic mismanagement. . . 

The government asked a question, the answer to which its three constituent parties couldn’t agree on.

Remember James Shaw saying:

“The last question we should be asking ourselves is, ‘can we be re-elected if we do this?’ The only question we should be asking ourselves is, ‘do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t?'”

Labour and the Green Party had to swallow a big dead rat, served to them by Winston Peters:

. . .It wasn’t even an hour after the Prime Minister had put the final nail in the coffin that is the capital gains tax (CGT) when RNZ asked Mr Peters whether Labour will be expecting his party’s support on another issue in return for losing this flagship policy. Mr Peters fired back: “May I remind you, the Labour Party is in government because of my party.”

No reading between the lines necessary. . .

New Zealand First is polling under the 5% threshold, it couldn’t afford to alienate the dwindling number of its supporters.

The capital gains tax, if not dead, is buried while Ardern is Prime Minister, but the threat of other niche taxes is still live.

 


We can be grateful

March 22, 2019

We can be grateful that, by and large, the response to last week’s massacre has been the opposite of what the killer intended – unity instead of division.

We can be grateful that Muslims in Christchurch and the wider New Zealand Muslim community reacted with forgiveness and inclusiveness.

We can be grateful that by and large, the horror of last week’s massacre has been met with compassion here and overseas.

We can be grateful that, by and large, the response from politicians has been appropriate and non-partisan.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern invited Opposition leader Simon Bridges to accompany her to Christchurch on her first visit, following the example set by then-PM John Key who invited the then-Labour leader to accompany him to the city after the earthquakes.

Since then the PM has shown compassion, empathy and resolve and the Opposition leader has offered support when it’s been appropriate but otherwise left her to it, as he should.

We can be grateful that the changes to gun laws announced are reasonable.

We can be grateful that today those who choose to can observe a two-minute silence in honour of the 50 people who died.

We can be grateful that this will provide a prompt to the media to reduce the saturation coverage so they don’t cross the line from news to voyeurism.


Did you hear the union roar?

March 15, 2019

There was no surprise that Shane Jones replied to questions about a conflict of interest with bombast.

That is business as usual for him.

But threatening Hamish Rutherford, the journalist who broke the story, is a new and disturbing low:

There is a degree of rough and tumble in journalism and, if you’re going to give it out, you have to take it.

But this week vague claims were made which were quite troubling.

On Monday, in an interview with Morning Report, Shane Jones, possibly the most forceful personality currently in New Zealand’s Parliament, described me as a “bunny boiler”.

Whatever he means by that, I would have happily let that pass. Much of the reaction has been fun. I never imagined I would have to explain those sort of cultural references to my parents, themselves avid RNZ listeners.  . .

But Jones also described me as “unethical”, a more serious claim which he has not clarified, despite implying that he might use parliamentary privilege to say more – an ancient right MPs have to say literally whatever they want without legal repercussions, so long as they say it in the House.

It is an ancient and important right. But I understood, at its core, was the need to promote free speech, not to stifle it.

This has led to a difficult couple of days. I have not been able to defend myself as I have not known what the accusations might be.

Jones (or any MP) could say anything at all about me, or you, with no legal comeback.

After Question Time and an urgent debate, it still is not clear. Shane Jones did not use his privilege, but he could do, at any time. . . 

That politicians who resort to personal attack don’t usually have anything substantive to counter criticism will be little comfort.

This is an abuse of power, no more and no less and one which the union representing journalists ought to be condemning.

But did you hear the union roar? I haven’t heard, or read, so much as a whisper from E TŪ, which represents journalists, or any other union.

Nor have I come across anything but a mild that’s not appropriate from Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party which is supposed to stand up for workers.

If I’ve missed the union’s defence of a colleague and condemnation of his attacker, please correct me.

If there hasn’t been one, it is yet another example of unions putting politics before the people they purport to represent.

Disclosure: Hamish Rutherford’s parents are friends and I’ve known him for several years. I was an admirer of his work for the depth of his research, understanding of issues and non-partisan approach long before I met him.


It’s only words

March 8, 2019

Chris Trotter has seen through the conjuring :

WHAT IS IT? This weird, emotionally energetic style of politics that promises “transformational” change and then, mysteriously, fails to deliver it? . . .

Nameless though it may be, few would deny that Jacinda Ardern is its most brilliant local exponent. . . . So effective are “Jacinda’s” communication skills, that a great many New Zealanders have taken to confusing her declarations with actual achievements. Those who point out the discrepancy between the Prime Minister’s magnificent words and her government’s less-than-magnificent deeds are not well received. But, that does not mean they are wrong. . . 

 So richly evocative of selfless activism and against-all-odds success was her declaration that Ardern’s audience’s critical faculties were suspended. Almost as if the promise and the deed were one and the same. Some people might call what she did “casting a spell”. Others, even more provocatively, might call it “magic”.

But, magic of a certain kind. Ardern’s are not the sort of spells that begin with fantasy but end in reality. Jacinda is no Churchill. Rather than a magician, she is a conjurer. What Ardern weaves with her words are not the intentions that lead to actual deeds, but the dangerous illusion that what is being asked of her has already been accomplished – made real by the unmistakable sincerity and the power of her will. Once she has declared her determination to end child poverty, who could be so churlish as to point out that the children of the poor are still with us?

Ardern’s conjuring is perfectly suited to that crucial group of voters who detached themselves from the National Party in response to what they saw as the “awful” problems which John Key and Bill English had failed to address during their nine years in office. . . 

Ardern’s game-changing intuition was that all these voters really wanted to hear were different words. Commitments, promises, studies, working-groups, projects: policies filled with good intentions and promoted with powerful displays of empathy. The number of voters eager to focus on the fiscal mechanisms required to pay for Labour’s kinder, gentler New Zealand were considerably fewer. . . 

Every successful conjurer, however, must have their very own Jonathan Creek. Somebody to design and build the equipment that turns the conjurer’s masterful misdirection into a reality that baffles and delights. Ardern’s misfortune is to preside over a coalition government decidedly lacking in Jonathan Creeks. Thanks to Clare Curran, Phil Twyford, Iain Lees-Galloway, Grant Robertson and Shane Jones, too many people in the audience are being distracted from Ardern’s magic spiel. Some are even beginning to work out how the tricks are done.

This is not how the story is supposed to end. Not with people wondering whether the Prime Minister’s promises are ultimately achievable.

It’s not that “Jacinda” has become less likeable. . .  It’s just that Ardern’s “Magic Politics”, as with all kinds of fiction, is absolutely dependent on the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief.

If (or should that be ‘as’) people discover that fighting climate change and ending child poverty will require the imposition of real and rising taxes, then Ardern’s illusions will begin to fade. The voters will start noticing the strings attached to her magical promises.

And the spell will be broken.

She’s very good with words, especially those that touch emotions, but it’s only words and empty words at that.

Change and progress require more than empty phrases. They require decisions and actions.

The government is nearly half way through it’s term and what has it done to make a positive and sustainable difference to New Zealand?

This government, and it’s leader have over-promised and failed to deliver.


Roads government business

February 4, 2019

Northland is getting $20.39m from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), $19.41 million of which is to upgrade transport links because Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says:

“Reliable transport infrastructure is crucial to Northland’s economic success as it affects every part of the region’s economy. Strengthening transport links is critical to fully unlocking the potential of the North and enable new opportunities for local people and business. . . “

Transport infrastructure, or what the rest of us call roads,  is the business of government which is more than can be said for a lot of the initiatives to benefit from the PGF but this raises questions about the government’s roading priorities:

The investment from the Provincial Growth fund for transport links in Kaipara will no doubt be welcomed by local residents but the Government’s overall approach to roading in Northland makes no sense, National’s spokesperson for Transport Paul Goldsmith says.

“The reality is that although the Government has provided this funding, it is not going to build the key road that the region needs – the highly engineered four lane highway from Wellsford to Whangarei.

“On the one hand the Government is going to continue to drip feed funding for a half measure, a single laned highway to Whangarei, frustrating all Northlanders, and at the same time sporadically throw a bit of money from the Provincial Growth Fund to favoured regions.

“This is part and parcel of the politicisation of the fund from Shane Jones with a bias to particular regions. . . 

The four lane highway would be more expensive than the roading improvements around Kaipara but it would also would give the biggest benefit to most people and contribute most to both road safety and economic growth.

The package also gives money to develop Maori land.

“The extra capital for the development of Māori land will be welcomed by Māori – it’s a pity however, that the Government has axed the Te Ture Whenua Māori reforms which would have added hundreds of millions of dollars of value for Māori landowners and their whanau by unlocking the economic potential of the around 1.4 million hectares of land.

“We should be wary of the PGF becoming the banker of last resort for general business or Māori land owners.”

We should be very wary of the PGF doing anything at all without establishing the need, costs and benefits.


Labour pains National delivers

January 31, 2019

The National Party will put an end to tax bracket creep:

A National Government would link income tax brackets to inflation, ensuring income taxes are adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living and allowing New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

“New Zealanders’ incomes are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living because this Government is imposing more red tape and taxes,” Mr Bridges said in his State of the Nation speech in Christchurch today.

“Over the next four years, New Zealanders will be paying almost $10,000 more per household in tax than they would have been under National. The Government is taking more than it needs, only to waste billions on bad spending.

“On top of that, by 2022 New Zealanders on the average wage will move into the top tax bracket. That’s not right or fair. So in our first term National will fix that by indexing tax thresholds to inflation.

“We will amend the Income Tax Act so tax thresholds are adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living. That will mean that within a year after every election, Treasury will advise the Government on how much the thresholds should be adjusted for inflation.

“This would prevent New Zealanders from moving into higher tax brackets even when their income isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of living. It would ensure New Zealanders keep more of what they earn to stay on top of rising costs of living such as higher prices for necessities like petrol, rent and electricity.

“We will include a veto clause so the Government of the day can withhold the changes in the rare circumstances there is good reason to. But it will have to explain that decision to New Zealanders.

It would take a very serious change in economic health, or a very stupid government, to do that.

“The changes would make a real difference. Assuming inflation of 2 per cent, someone on the average wage would be $430 a year better off after the first adjustment, $900 after the second and $1,400 after the third.

“A family with two earners – for example, one earning $80,000 and the other $40,000 – would be $600 better off a year after the first adjustment, about $1,300 after the second and $1,900 by the third.

“That’s more of their own money in their own bank accounts.

“The first adjustment would prevent Kiwis from paying an extra $650 million a year in tax based on today’s estimates. We can afford that by managing the books prudently and spending wisely.

“We will also do more on tax – but add no new taxes – and I’ll continue talking about our plans between now and next year’s election.

“National is committed to helping New Zealanders get ahead. This step means that as well as cancelling new taxes this Government has piled on, we won’t allow future governments to use inflation as an annual tax increase by stealth.” 

This is a very positive start to the political year from National and a stark contrast to Labour’s which featured what amounts to an admission of failure on their flagship policy:

KiwiBuild’s “interim” targets for this electoral term have been scrapped as the Government recalibrates the programme.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Housing Minister Phil Twyford told media from their caucus retreat on Wednesday that their commitment to building 100,000 affordable homes over the next decade remains intact, but the interim targets for this term did not.

The Government has been dealing with the fallout from an admission by Twyford that the Government would not be able build 1000 of the homes by July 1, its first interim target. Instead it expects to build just 300.

The KiwiBuild policy aims to build 100,000 affordable homes for first-home buyers over 10 years, half of them in Auckland. . . 

They expect us to believe they can build 100,000 affordable homes in a decade when they can’t build 300 in the first year?

Labour is planning to waste money on houses for a relatively few people earning well above the average income. National has committed to letting people keep a bit more of their own money.

It gives voters a very clear choice – Labour pains over housing or National delivering clear policy to end bracket creep.

 

 


No-one wins when bystanders hurt by strikes

December 13, 2018

The threatened strike by Air New Zealand workers has been averted.

Thank goodness.

Had it gone ahead, the strike for three days from next Friday would have disrupted flights for tens of thousands of travellers and a lot of freight.

The threat was enough to cause considerable angst to a lot of people and did the workers’ cause no good.

Any sympathy people might have had for their claims was more than outweighed by the stress and distress over the fears that planned travel for weddings, graduations, reunions, homecomings, work and Christmas was going to be impossible.

Unions do themselves and their workers no favours with these sorts of threats which take those of us old enough to remember back to the bad old days when strikes routinely upset travel plans.

The government must accept part of the blame too, as Barry Soper writes:

If politics is about perception, the perception is that the country’s going to hell in a trade union hand basket.

Parliament’s bear pit was on fire yesterday with the booming Gerry Brownlee lambasting the Government for returning New Zealand to cloth cap control by the unions with Air New Zealand engineers threatening to down tools for three days from December 21 (the strike threat was removed late last night).

National riled the Government saying there are now more strikes than there have been since Jacinda Ardern was at primary school. . .

It’s true when Ardern was at primary school 30 years ago the trade union movement was all powerful and battling a government that made the recent changes to workplace law look like a Sunday school picnic.. . 

Now the muscle is again being flexed and if Labour’s feeling flustered, it’s got itself to blame.

Changes to the way the party selected its leader was taken away from its MPs six years ago and handed over to the party’s membership and its trade union affiliates who have 20 per cent of the vote, with caucus getting 40 and the rest going to paid-up card carriers. . .

Unions don’t only hold the voting power, they are major donors to Labour and they want their reward for that. But they put the government, and any sympathy the public might have for their members, at risk when bystanders are hurt by strikes.

 


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