Who do you believe?

15/09/2020

. . .  who do you believe on why Jami-Lee Ross has pulled out of the contest for the Botany electorate?

Jami-Lee Ross:

. . . It’s a safe National seat, but Ross said he believes it was a three-way race this election between himself, Luxon and Labour’s candidate, Naisi Chen.

Or David Farrar:

. . . In no way was it a three way race. In a poll done by Curia in August 2020, Jami-Lee Ross was at 1.8%. And no that is not a typo – 1.8% not 18%.

Jami-Lee has pulled out because he knew it was going to be a humiliating thrashing. Otherwise he would still be standing.

A disgraced politician or an experienced and highly regarded pollster?

I believe the pollster.

 


Labour under SFO investigation

14/07/2020

The Serious Fraud Office has announced it is investigating the Labour Party over donations in 2017:

The Serious Fraud Office has commenced an investigation over donations made to the Labour Party in 2017.

The SFO said in a statement this afternoon that it is presently conducting four investigations in relation to electoral funding matters.

A fifth matter that the agency investigated relating to electoral funding is now before the courts.

“We consider that making the current announcement is consistent with our past practice in this area of electoral investigations and in the public interest,” the SFO”s director Julie Read said.

In the interests of transparency and consistency, the SFO announced the commencement of all these investigations, she said.

However, the SFO said it had no further comment to make on the Labour Party investigation.

The department’s ongoing investigations include one into the New Zealand First Foundation and two other separate investigations into Auckland Council and Christchurch City Council mayoral electoral funding.

The fifth relates to donations paid to the National Party, which has led to criminal charges Independent MP Jami-Lee Ross and three other businessmen.

The SFO has not laid charges against the National Party, its staff or members but that distinction might be lost on anyone not into the minutiae of the case against Ross and the three businessmen.

The Serious Fraud Office says it is on track to make a call before this year’s election on whether to lay charges in relation to the New Zealand First Foundation, which has been bankrolling the New Zealand First Party. . . 

David Farrar says the charges probably result from an art auction:

If I am correct that this is what the is investigating, then it will come down to whether Labour valued the artworks fairly. That determines who get listed as the donor.

Let’s say a painting went for $25,000. Now if the painting is worth $20,000 normally then the artist is deemed to have made a $20,000 donation and the bidder a $5,000 donation as they paid $25,000 for something worth $20,000.

And only donations over $15,000 get the identity published, so the person who paid $25,000 for it, has their identity hidden.

But what if the painting wasn’t really worth $20,000. Let’s say that is a nominal value but in reality it is only worth $7,000. Then the donor has made an effective donation of $18,000 and should have been disclosed. . . 

Having Labour, the NZ First Foundation, two former Labour MPs who are now mayors and donors to the National Party under investigation isn’t ideal. But it’s better than suspected transgressions of Electoral Law and political donations being swept under the carpet.

However, even political tragics might be tempted to say a plague on all their houses and calls are already being made for public funding of political parties.

That is not the answer to the problem of breaking the law.

The answer is good law that people follow with good processes for ensuring they do and strong consequences if they don’t.


We don’t need another save-my-job party

29/04/2020

Soon to be no longer the Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross plans to launch his own political party.

Former National MP, turned independent, Jami-Lee Ross is starting his own political party ahead of this year’s election and is calling it Advance New Zealand.

In one of his semi-regular newsletters, Ross last night asked his supporters if they would join with him in starting a “new political movement”.

“I want to see a democratic country that has brave voices in the middle that speak truth to power,” he said. . .

“No new party has made it to Parliament without a current or former MP leading it.”

His last point is correct but while it worked for Tariana Turia, Jim Anderton, Peter Dunne and Winston Peters, there are several other disaffected MPs who tried it and failed.

All the ones who succeeded won a seat to do it and he is very, very unlikely to hold his electorate in the election.

It takes a lot more than a sitting MP to form a credible party.  A quick look at previous election results show every three years there are parties that managed to get the 500 members required to register and stand, gained an insignificant number of votes then disappeared.

This is a desperate attempt to cling to his parliamentary career and we don’t need another save-my-job party.


Own goal

19/02/2020

Suppression orders on the names of the four people charged over political donations have been lifted:

Former National MP, and now independent, Jami-Lee Ross, has been named today as one of the four people facing Serious Fraud Office (SFO) charges in relation to two $100,000 donations made to the National Party. . . 

When news that charges were being laid broke and the National Party said no-one associated with the party was involved I immediately wondered if Ross was one of the accused.

Barry Soper named him on NewsTalkZB and Sean Plunket named him on Magic Talk but I didn’t come across any other reference to him in other media and thought that was unusual when all media had been keen to report his every accusation against National and its leader.

Then all four names were suppressed.

Now the suppression has been lifted it’s being widely reported and what an own-goal by Ross.

He was throwing mud and regardless of the outcome of the court case, he’s managed to smear himself with it.


Drip, drip, drip

30/11/2018

Leader of the Opposition is reputed to be the worst job in politics.

It’s certainly not an easy one, especially early in the term of a new government when few outside the politically tragic are interested in what you do and say.

The media doesn’t help by fixating on poll results and interviewing their own keyboards to write opinion pieces forecasting the end of the leader’s tenure.

They carry on, drip, drip, drip like water on a stone in the expectation they will eventually be proved right.

They did it to Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little and it worked because the Labour caucus was too fixated on itself and its divisions and the party panicked.

They did it to Helen Clark but it didn’t work. Even when all she could muster in the preferred Prime Minister poll was only 5% she stared her would-be coup leaders down.

They didn’t do it to John Key because he polled well from the start and he became leader towards the end of the Labour-led government’s third term when it was looking tired and stale.

They didn’t do it to Jacinda Ardern but she took over the leadership at the very end of the National-led government’s third term and so close to the election she got far more attention than a new opposition leader normally would.

The drip, drip, drip is happening to Simon Bridges but none of the pundits give their gloomy analysis context. He became leader only a few months after the election when it’s almost impossible for an opposition leader to shine.

Jami-Lee Ross’s sabotage  didn’t help but at least for now, it makes Bridges’ leadership stronger. The National caucus has learned from Labour’s bad example that disunity is electoral poison.

It is the caucus who decides who’s leader. None of them will want Ross to claim the leader’s scalp and anyone with the political nous to be leader would know that this early in the government’s term, it would be almost impossible to make headway in the preferred PM polls and no matter who took over, he or she too would be subject to the drip, drip, drip of negative columns.

What the columnists don’t see, or at least don’t write about, is what I saw yesterday – Simon Bridges speaking confidently and showing his intelligence, sincerity and warmth.

This is not the dead man walking about whom they opine.

He has, to borrow a line from former Invercargill MP Eric Roy, had a very bad lambing.

I don’t know how much tough stuff he’d faced before, but yesterday convinced me that like good farmers after bad lambings, Bridges has got up and is getting on, in spite of the drip,drip, drip that’s trying to take him down.


Back to what matters

22/10/2018

The news that Jami-Less Ross has been taken into mental health care doesn’t answer the question I asked last week – is he mad, bad or both?

Nor does it excuse his behavior, but it does explain it.

Mental ill-health is serious. Continued  media attention won’t help him and could well hinder his recovery.

National can now return its focus to what matters – holding the government to account for the fall-out from bad policy, and developing better policy to offer the electorate.

It should also allow the media to focus on matters that matter such as the impact of high and rising fuel prices, the charade of the truncated select committee process on the ban on oil and gas exploration and the danger of virtue signaling environment policies that do harm rather than good.


Can’t win, nothing to lose

20/10/2018

Jami-Lee Ross announced at the start of the week he was going to resign and stand in the resulting by-election.

By week’s end he’d changed his tune.

He’s now not going to resign.

He can justify that as much as he likes but you don’t have to be a cynic to think he’s realised that he wouldn’t win the seat as an independent, that he’d lose his MP’s income, and that the prospects of anyone else wanting to employ him are infinitesimal.

If he can’t win he has nothing to lose which leaves the National caucus with another conundrum.

Could it, should it, get Ross kicked out of parliament under the waka jumping legislation against which it argued so vehemently?

Or should it ignore him in the knowledge that if he stays he could carry on scatter-bombing, hurting untold other people and his former party, under the protection of parliamentary privilege?

A man who knows he can’t win and is unemployable has nothing to lose.

 


Mad, bad or both?

18/10/2018

Is Jami-Lee Ross mentally ill, just behaving really badly, or both?

Amateur diagnosticians are using terms like manic depression, bipolar and narcissism to describe his behaviour.

Former colleague, Mark Mitchell, who is in a better position to know spoke to Mike Hosking yesterday about mental illness and said: “He has to take responsibility for his actions, but he must look after himself first.”

That was before the release of the tape that didn’t appear to be the smoking gun Ross said it would be, but did needlessly insult other people, all of whom responded with dignity.

Maureen Pugh tweeted:

Chris Finlayson said:

“Any suggestion that I am upset about the tape is just wrong,” he said.

Finlayson noted he had said plenty of nasty things about people himself over his career that thankfully had not been taped.

“I can wound with my tongue at 100 paces,” Finlayson said. . .

David Carter was equally untroubled:

Mr Carter also said he was not in the slightest bit bothered by comments made about him by Mr Bridges.

Mr Carter said Mr Bridges was clearly set up by Mr Ross in the phone call.

“Looking at renewal that’s inevitably needed by all political parties, I take no offence at all about what was said by Simon Bridges.”

Mr Carter has confirmed he will not be seeking re-election as a list MP.

“He’s made two contacts with me, one before he was leader and one after, on both occasions he actively encouraged me to stay – he said I was very valuable contributor to caucus discussions and particularly in a mentoring role to many or our new MPs.

“I have told him I will stay and complete this term but have no intention of standing beyond the election of 2020.” . . 

These are just three of many needlessly dragged into the mess Ross has made. David Farrar writes of the terrible personal cost:

. . . This self-inflicted scandal is taking a terrible human toll. I’ll focus on the politics in another post, but I find it really sad the damage that has been done.

  • Jami-Lee’s career is destroyed and he may not even be employable in NZ. He’s gone from being a newly promoted front bencher to a pariah
  • His wife has the humiliation of what should be private matters between them laid out in public
  • His children will grow up with articles on the Internet about their father’s relationships with other women. As a father this upsets me greatly. No kid should have to endure that.
  • The four women in the article have obviously been through a horrible experience. I’m not the most sensitive soul out there but I found it hard to read the article. It impacted me emotionally. Forget politics. Those women have had a terrible time.
  • In at least one case, a marriage has split up and you’ll have a husband and children hurting
  • Simon Bridges has had someone who was one of his closest mates in caucus secretly tape record him. That is a huge betrayal of trust. Forget the politics. How would you feel if one if your mates did that to you?
  • Maureen Pugh has been humiliated by the release of the tape with a harsh description of her. She is incredibly upset, as is her family. And those who have campaigned for her and supported her are also upset. Maureen’s public response has been magnanimous and classy. But’s let’s not pretend how terrible she must feel.
  • 40,000 National Party members and supporters are upset. The vast majority of these people don’t want to be MPs. They don’t expect to gain anything in return for their hard work door knocking, donating, delivering etc. They just think that New Zealand does better when National is in Government. They feel betrayed and disappointed that this fiasco undermines their hard work

So there is a terrible personal cost to all this. It is very sad and I hope it stops. . . 

Mental illness might explain the behaviour but it doesn’t excuse it nor justify the hurt inflicted.

As a party member I am appalled that any other member, let alone an MP, could behave in this way and inflict so much damage.

If memory serves me correctly, my electorate donated money to help Ross win the seat in the by-election through which he entered parliament.

The party is strong enough to withstand it and winning the by-election will prove that.

Ironically Ross’s actions have also strengthened Simon Bridges’ position. Even if there was some disquiet about the leadership – and I have no knowledge of any –  everyone in caucus knows they must show 100% discipline and unity so as not to reward Ross.

He may well try to release more of what he sees as ‘proof’ but the media needs to ask itself, if it would be in the public interest and safe for his mental health, to carry on publishing it.

Much of what we has become public was not.

Modern media is in a very difficult position, knowing that if they don’t publish something, it can still become public through social media but that doesn’t justify hurting those who will become collateral damage and there is even more need to tread carefully if someone’s mental health is at risk.


Paying for poor policies

31/08/2018

Business confidence has dropped to the lowest point for 10 years:

In the August ANZ Business Outlook Survey headline business confidence dropped a further 5 points to a net 50% of respondents reporting they expect general business conditions to deteriorate in the year ahead.

However, firms’ perceptions of their own prospects are a much better gauge of actual economic outcomes. This series stabilised at a net 4% expecting an improvement, well below the long-term average of +27%. By industry, manufacturers’ expectations dropped 11 points to become the least positive about their own activity (-4%), while retail and services improved somewhat.

Turning to the survey detail:

* A net 5% of firms are expecting to reduce investment, down 6 points. It is rare for this series to be negative.

* Employment intentions fell 8 points to -6%. No sectors are positive.

These two points are most concerning. Businesses reducing investment and with negative employment intentions will have a direct and negative impact on the economy.

* Profit expectations were flat at -17%. Retail and manufacturing are the weakest sectors at -27% (up 1%pt) and -28% (down 12%pts) respectively.

* Firms’ pricing intentions fell 2 points to +27%. They are strongest for construction but also lifted for retail. Inflation expectations were flat at 2.2%.

 * Residential construction intentions eased 3 points to +13%, while encouragingly, commercial construction intentions bounced 13 points to -4%. . . 

The economy is delicately placed. But it seems increasingly inevitable that wariness amongst firms will have real impacts, in the near term at least, as investment and employment decisions are deferred. . .

The outlook isn’t all bad.

But firms have real concerns about industrial relations policy, minimum wage hikes and costs more generally – and particularly about their ability to pass on higher costs and maintain profitability. Troubles in the construction sector appear to be starting to cause stresses in related firms. And exporting firms will be keeping a nervous eye on signs that global growth has peaked. . .

The Taxpayers’ Union says the drop in confidence shows the urgent need for tax reform:

. . .Taxpayers’ Union Economist Joe Ascroft says, “Businesses need more than a working group. They need real changes in policy direction, including tax reform. Business breakfasts with CEOs and Cabinet Ministers simply won’t cut it for the average small business.”

“Company tax rate cuts – accompanied by full capital expensing – would put a rocket under business investment and put an end to the doldrums. If focused at measures to boost productivity, the evidence shows that tax relief would flow through to workers in the form of higher wages.” . .

Tax reform would help and not just for businesses.

The lower dollar helps export returns but increases the cost of imports, including fuel, the price of which is also being boosted by extra taxes:

The Government’s obsession with fuel taxes shows it doesn’t care about the cost of living for ordinary Kiwis, National’s Transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.

“Now is the time for solutions to the cost of living, not new taxes. National is taking the initiative with a bill lodged today to repeal regional fuel taxes within three months.

“Fuel prices are sitting at record levels across the country and are set to rise further because the Government is proposing three additional rounds of national fuel tax increases totalling an extra 12 cents a litre of fuel in new taxes.

“In addition, there is an 11.5 cents a litre regional fuel tax in place in Auckland that will be rolled to other regions in a few short years. It adds to this Government’s sorry record of driving up costs for households and businesses and choking economic growth. . .

 

But tax is only part of the problem. The Government has several other poor policies that we’re all paying for:

The message from economists is loud and clear: the Government’s bad economic policies mean New Zealanders will be thousands of dollars a year worse off, says National Party Leader Simon Bridges.

“In the last three months alone NZIER has revised down their GDP growth forecasts which means every man, woman and child will be $1600 a year worse off on average by 2022. That is $6400 for a family of four.

“NZIER are clear that the decline in the economic outlook isn’t just sentiment. Profitability has deteriorated and businesses’ own activity, a measure closely correlated with GDP growth, has weakened. There are real implications for businesses, workers and New Zealanders trying to get ahead.

“The reason GDP growth is now faltering is because this Government has imposed a wide range of policies that are bad for growth. They have imposed more taxes, shut off foreign investment, significantly increased labour and compliance costs, banned oil and gas exploration and wasted billions on low-quality spending.

“And what was the Prime Minister’s solution this morning: another working group. The Government needs to understand that lower growth has real consequences for New Zealand families. Working groups do not drive economic growth, good policies and hardworking New Zealanders do.

“So the goal is simple. We must grow the economy if we want New Zealanders to be better off. A growing economy means more jobs, higher incomes and more revenue to pay for the things we need.

“We need to be pro-growth as that is the only way we can improve our standard of living. National wants New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn. Higher taxes, more regulation, compliance costs and a rising cost of living do nothing to help families get ahead.

 

Added costs and uncertainty are a poisoning business confidence and this week’s announcement of a business council is no antidote.


Let’s (not) tax this

10/04/2018

The National Party has updated its election tax advertisement as it works to counter the government’s fuel tax grab.

The National Party is highlighting Labour’s double whammy of national and regional fuel tax increases by launching an advertisement to illustrate the costs faced by consumers and a petition to encourage people to voice their opposition, National’s Transport Spokesman Jami-Lee Ross says.

“These taxes will hurt consumers in the pocket. As well as the direct impact on what you pay at the pump, they have an effect on most other products you buy, and that really adds up,” Mr Ross says.

“The Government’s plan is to hit consumers twice, firstly in Auckland but also around the country.

“The net result is motorists paying up to a massive 25 cents a litre in more tax – that’s $15 every time you fill up the car.

“And the regional fuel tax legislation makes it clear that other regions are expected to be paying for regional fuel taxes even though Labour said they wouldn’t be able to.

“People will end up paying more and getting less. This is particularly so in regional New Zealand where the nationwide petrol tax increase is paired with a big decline in state highway investment.

“Regional New Zealanders are being made to shell out for new trams down Auckland’s Dominion Road.

“People are angry on this one. The Government needs to rethink its approach and ease up on the cost increases on Kiwis.

“They claim they are worried about people’s incomes and then they hit them with this.”

The three parties in government claim to be determined to help the poor.

Any increase in fuel tax will hit the poorest hardest and more than counter any gains they might have made through increases to the minimum wage or government payments.

You can sign a petition against the tax here.


Fuel tax and $pend fuel$ inflation

04/04/2018

National MPs have been warning that the government’s proposed Auckland fuel tax wouldn’t apply just in Auckland – and they have been proved right.

The Government has today confirmed that it plans to gut regional roading projects to pay for trams in Auckland, and to charge regional motorists more to do so, National’s Transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.

“Today’s announcement will be met with anger and disappointment right around New Zealand, with the Government confirming it will cut around $5 billion out of the state highway construction programme over the next 10 years.

“That means roads which would have improved safety, created jobs, boosted regional economic growth and better connected our regional farmers and producers to our major centres will be axed.

“This is an extraordinary blow for regional New Zealand, from a Government which has claimed to stand behind it. Instead, the Government is saying their needs are secondary and ensuring tourists can get from the Auckland CBD to the airport is more pressing.

The government has put a $3 billion slush fund in the hands of Shane Jones for regional development. It would be far better to use some of that money for upgrading regional roads, but instead of tax increases not as well as them.

“Motorists right around New Zealand will also be shocked at the extraordinary new taxes the Government plans to impose on them.

“Aucklanders could actually find themselves paying as much as 25 cents a litre extra for their fuel within three years – once the proposed annual fuel excise and proposed regional fuel tax are taken into account.

“That means they will pay an extra $10 to $15 every time they fill up – and in less than three years the rest of New Zealand could be paying that fuel tax too, under legislation the Government introduced last week.

“That this Government will continue the previous Government’s commitment to road safety is to be applauded, but it is undermining that by axing the construction of New Zealand’s safest and busiest roads – the Roads of National Significance.”

The government has been crowing that the families package and increase in the minimum wage will help low income households. But there’s no point putting more money in one pocket if it’s taking more from the other.

An increase in fuel tax will increase the price of transport for people and goods.

The price of every trip will be higher for individuals, charities, businesses and entities like schools and health providers.

That will be inflationary and the people who will be hardest hit by the resulting price increases will be the poor the government is purporting to help.

The new tax also breaks an election promise:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union says the Government’s proposal to increase fuel levies breaks Jacinda Ardern’s promise of ‘no new taxes’ and the widening of the Regional Transport Fund (paid for by petrol taxes) to include funding for cycleways and trams is a dumb idea.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “The plan to increase fuel taxes by 10-12 cents per litre means the Prime Minister is breaking her very clear pre-election promise of ‘no new taxes’.”

“Fuel tax is particularly harmful because of its regressive nature – the people it hurts most are poorer families living in fringe suburbs. This will ultimately mean less food on the table.”

“Aucklanders will be whacked twice over, with today’s fuel tax announcement applying on top of the proposed regional fuel tax.”

“And as if fuel tax hikes didn’t sting enough, the Government is going to be using the revenue to fund cycleways and trams, at the same time they’re slashing funding for highways. In other words, drivers are paying more to receive less.”

When I first became active in the National Party I sat through conference after conference where remits urged the then-government to ensure that fuel taxes went to roads  and not into the consolidated fund.

That eventually happened but now motorists will be taxed more and roading projects will receive less and Labour adds more fuel to the tax and spend fire.

 


Greens to tax good farmers to clean up after bad

08/09/2014

The Green Party wants to impose a tax on irrigation water and use it to pay for cleaning waterways:

“The Green Party will also put a charge on the use of water for irrigation in order to drive more efficient use of our precious freshwater resources,” said Dr Norman.

“The OECD, New Zealand Treasury and the Ministry for the Environment have all recommended water charging, yet National is sitting on its hands.

“According to Lincoln University’s Public Perceptions of New Zealand’s Environment 2010 study, New Zealanders, including farmers, are strongly supportive of commercial users being charged for the water they use.

“That’s because freshwaters is a common good, and the use of it for private profit should result in a direct benefit to both the environment and wider community.

Why only farmers then, why not all commercial users which would include power companies, food processors, restaurants and hair dressers?

“We will ring fence the money generated by the irrigation charge for water pollution clean-up initiatives.

Dr Norman said that his policies reward good farmers that are doing the right things, whereas National’s policies incentivise poor practice. . .

He’s wrong there.

The Green Party would tax all irrigators and use the money to clean up after the minority who don’t protect and enhance waterways.

There is no incentive for poor practice now and very expensive penalties for anyone who breaches conditions set by regional councils.

This is just another tax by another left-wing party that wants to fund its promises to spend more with other people’s money.

 


Tied up for Tony

30/07/2014

Parliament will be especially colourful today.

The best Health Minister in recent times, Tony Ryall, is delivering his valedictory speech this afternoon and his National Party colleagues are getting all tied up in tribute to his sartorial splendour:

Photo: On the day of his Valedictory Speech, National MPs are emulating Tony Ryall's infamous shirt-and-tie combos in tribute to an exceptional career.


Member for Hypocrisy

07/06/2014

Facebook post of the day:

I’m beginning to wonder if David Cunliffe is the Member for Hypocrisy.
Doesn’t like secret trusts – has one himself.
Doesn’t like donations from organisations that lobby for policy – takes tens of thousands from the unions
Doesn’t like the coat-tailing MMP rule – except if he benefits from it by working with Kim Dotcom to become PM.

It is possible Cunliffe would find more support from the Hypocrisy constituency than he has managed to get in polls seeking voters preferences for Prime Minister – not that that would be difficult given how low his support is there.


Once were youngsters

02/06/2014

Among the many ironies of the Internet Mana Party is the aim to attract young voters when its candidates are middle-aged and older:

David Farrar said  Laila Harre leading the internet party because she uses the internet, would be like him leading the Greens because he sometimes eats them.

I think that’s the sort of logic these baby boomers are using – they can attract young voters because they once were young.

National, by contrast, has young MPs and candidates.

Among them is Cabinet Minister and Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye who is in her early 30s.

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross was only 11 when Harre first entered parliament so was National’s Dunedin South candidate Hamish Walker.

The party’s Clutha Southland candidate Todd Barclay, was only just at school when she first became an MP.


Compare and contrast

15/05/2014


Property speculators pay CGT

13/04/2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe says it’s ‘lunacy’ that property speculators get tax free capital gain.

But they don’t.

Buying and selling properties as a business, which is what speculators do, attracts a capital gains tax.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : The Government already taxes capital gains on property speculation where property investment is for the purpose of trading. The member may not be aware of that. In addition to this, the Government’s 2010 tax changes on property disallowed deductions for building depreciation, and this raises around $700 million per year from property investors, a much larger number than any estimate we have seen for the foreseeable future for a further extension of the capital gains tax. Further extension of the current tax on capital gains is likely to have high compliance costs, and that is a conclusion that three tax inquiries and several Governments have come to over the last 20 years. If it excludes the family home, it will not raise much difference, it will not raise much revenue, and it becomes effectively a tax on successful businesses. In overseas jurisdictions, it has not improved housing affordability.

Hon David Parker: Why does he think the profits on the sale of investment property are of such critical importance to the economy that they should not be taxed but, instead, be cross-subsidised by every other taxpaying business and worker in New Zealand?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would point out two things, as I pointed out in the primary answer. First, where any property is bought for the purposes of selling, the gains on that are taxed at current income tax rates. It is called an income tax, but, actually, it is a capital gains tax on trading investment property. The member may have seen recent publicity about the scope of the Inland Revenue Department’s activities in ensuring that everyone who does trade in property pays full income tax rates, not the half-baked rate that he proposes in his proposition of 15c in the dollar. They are, actually, taxed at 33c currently. Secondly, the changes made in the 2010 tax package do collect $700 million per year from property investors, which is a much larger number than any revenue that he has posited as a result of his partial extension of the current capital gains tax.

Labour’s policy is built on the lie that we don’t have a CGT.

We do, at 33 cents in the dollar, more than twice the rate Labour is proposing – unless of course they’re going to tax it twice which is quite possible with them.

Jami-Lee Ross: In considering various tax options for New Zealand, what international evidence has the Minister seen on the effects of capital gains taxes on housing affordability?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen reports from Australia on the effects of a partial capital gains tax, limits on foreign investment, a so-called mansion tax, and compulsory savings. If these policies are meant to improve housing affordability, then they have not, because housing affordability is worse in Australia than in New Zealand. Just today there is a report being published showing that first-home buyers now make up the smallest proportion of the housing market ever in Australia. So the housing market in Australia now consists of fewer first-home buyers than ever, so we would be a bit careful about following that policy prescription.

Hon David Parker: What proportion of investment property sales pay tax as traders; is it closer to zero percent than 100 percent?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not have that information to hand, but I can assure the member that the Inland Revenue Department is vigorously pursuing every investor who trades in property.

Jami-Lee Ross: What reports has the Minister received on the case for a new capital gains tax in New Zealand?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have received the report of a speech to the Wellington Property Investors Association in July 2005. It noted that the Government-appointed tax review in 2001 considered a new capital gains tax and concluded that the disadvantages of such a tax—its complexity and costs—outweighed the theoretical benefits, so it did not recommend such a tax. The speech also noted that the Government of the day agreed with that conclusion that the status quo was entirely adequate. The speech was delivered on behalf of the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen by his associate David Cunliffe. . . .

What’s changed since Cunliffe delivered that speech?

None of the facts, just the politics.


Spending less, delivering more

04/09/2013

Labour’s aspiring leaders’ expensive promises have provided the government with a golden opportunity to highlight the responsible position it has taken to economic management.

2. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Finance: What steps is the Government taking to responsibly manage its finances and deliver better public services, following fast-rising government spending of the mid-2000s?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): We have followed some fairly basic rules that any prudent household or organisation would follow. We make sure that spending commitments are costed and that there are funds available to pay for those spending commitments, at the same time as balancing the need to support New Zealand families through uncertain times. The Government is on track for surplus next year. We have been able to deliver better results in health, education, welfare, and justice at the same time as reducing a very large surplus due in part to the Christchurch earthquake but also due in part to the policies of the previous Government. We intend to continue to deliver better results, in many cases for less funding.

Jami-Lee Ross: What are the benefits for New Zealand families of the Government’s responsible economic and fiscal management?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The main benefit for New Zealand families has been that they have had a degree of security about their income support and their jobs through some of the more difficult times that this economy has endured in the last 30 years. The cost of living is rising at less than 1 percent a year—a 14-year low. The export sector has been growing in the last 2 or 3 years, despite a high dollar. New Zealand’s 2.5 percent growth in the last year puts us among the faster-growing economies in the Western World. Business and consumer confidence is at, or near, a multi-year high. The Government’s disciplined spending is taking pressure off exchange rates and interest rates.

Jami-Lee Ross: How does New Zealand’s current economic performance compare with the position that the Government inherited in 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government inherited the triple problems of domestic recession, which began early in 2008; the global financial crisis; and the unfunded spending commitments of the previous Government, which saw public spending increase by 50 percent between 2003 and 2008. The New Zealand public is being treated to a display of all the attitudes that led to that, in listening to the Labour leadership contest—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! . . .

Jami-Lee Ross: I will try this one, Mr Speaker. What alternative policies has he seen, and what are the differences between those alternatives and the approach being taken by this Government?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has set out on a plan to protect the most vulnerable through difficult times, to return to surplus, and to build a more competitive economy. Our policies have been directed at enabling businesses, in particular, to make the decision to invest another dollar, employ another person, and pay a better wage. There are alternative approaches that involve reckless spending promises with no credible plan to fund them, and policy proposals where the Government uses its regulatory powers as well as its cheque book to buy votes. That is the approach we saw through the mid-2000s. But to give credit where it is due, the Labour leadership candidates are promising to spend—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Minister has no responsibility for that.

Hon David Parker: After Labour ran nine Budget surpluses and reduced net Government debt from 18 percent of GDP to zero, did he say in 2008, when the global financial crisis and recession hit: “This is the rainy day that Government has been saving up for.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I did say that because we were presented with a pre-election update showing 10 years of deficits ahead of us and ever-rising public debt—that is, public debt that never stopped increasing—in those forecasts. I am pleased to say that we have turned it round, but I am worried to think that the Labour leadership candidates think that they could do it all again.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon David Parker: Why does he repeatedly blame the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes for his record borrowing of more than $50 billion in the last 5 years, and if the Government’s spending track was left in such bad shape, how was it that he could responsibly cut taxes?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, it is just hard to know where to start there. The fact is that the tax packages were revenue-neutral—

Hon David Parker: 40 percent to the top 10 percent.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, they were revenue-neutral, and I am proud to say that we are the only developed country that has been table to increase GST and cut income taxes. No one else has actually been able to pull that off. In respect of the Government finances, well, as I said to the member, we were presented with 10 years of ever-growing deficits and ever-growing debt and with public services that were a complete shambles. We are proud to have been able to fix up that mess and do better.

Hon David Parker: Why is it that he finds corporate welfare so easy to justify, yet the idea of supporting the working New Zealanders, who keep this country going, through decent labour laws and fair wages seems to get him into a cold sweat and in need of a lie-down?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is simply wrong. This Government has ensured, with regard to the people whom he is referring to—the people who go to work every day, work hard, and pay their taxes—first, that they get taxed at a fair rate, not a ridiculously high rate; secondly, that when they pay their tax, they actually get public services that work; and, thirdly, that they get an economy managed in a way that they can have some security that when they go back to work the next day, they will still have a job. We are very proud of our record in supporting working people in New Zealand through tough times.

The leadership circus has shown that Labour hasn’t learned from its mistakes and highlights the contrast with National which has focussed on spending less and delivering more.


Rebalancing

18/06/2013

Jami-Lee Ross’s Bill allowing employers to take on other staff to replace striking workers has been greeted with howls of outrage.

But as Not PC asks, do you own your job?

. . . Strike action by unionised employees is certainly their right.  But the unionised employees have no right to forcibly exclude non-union labour from taking the jobs from which they have voluntarily walked away.

They will disagree with me. They would place pickets and law in the way of employers hiring new folk to replace those who’ve walked out. They will argue, essentially, that they own these jobs and have a right to exclude others from taking them—to exclude them by force, if necessary.

But they don’t own those jobs, and the mistaken idea that they do is what gives unions their power to destroy. . . .

The destruction isn’t only of their employers and his/her business, the damage goes much further than that to all the other people whose lives and businesses are affected.

After the prolonged Ports of Auckland strike a friend was buying jandals and was offered two for the price of one.

The shop keeper said the footwear had been delayed by the strike. By the time he got the shipment it was too late in summer for most people so he was offering two for one to get rid of them.

The right to strike will remain if the Bill succeeds but it will rebalance the power which at the moment is tilted in the favour of unions by allowing employers to keep their businesses running while staff are striking.

It will also reduce the damage done to other businesses not involved in the dispute but which are also affected by a strike.


Fire hose finances

01/06/2012

Answer of they day from yesterday’s question time:

Jami-Lee Ross: Has he received any reports on alternative approaches to getting back into surplus?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, but I have seen a lot of proposals to simply spend more money, whether it is the increased cost of borrowing more, higher tertiary student support, ineffective research and development tax credits, ever-increasing early childhood education subsidies, or even, in fact, army brass bands. The approach advocated for, resembles a fire hose of borrowed money being sprayed round—and not just borrowed money, but money borrowed internationally. Somehow all of these policies of spending more money and making no savings would apparently still leave the Labour Party back in surplus by— . . .

A “fire hose of borrowed money”.

I do love a good image and oh how I wish I had the skill to turn that phrase in to a picture.

 


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