Finance Ministers Debate – Queenstown

Lots of fun and excitement watching the leaders debate from Queenstown with the full stream available online ( link ) and it was patently obvious to see that Winston Peters was once again the crazy loud mouth uncle more concerned with ‘zingers’ and ‘one liners’ than actually coming with with a coherent vision let alone addressing what the other representatives actually said instead of using it as a Segway to talk about the things he wants to talk about instead. Steven Joyce was pushing the party line of the National Party which is all very well and good assuming you live in Auckland, Queenstown or some other hotspot but he failed to realise that actually if you live outside of those areas the job boom he talks about is simply non-existent. In Wellington there are tonnes of full time jobs but they’re all temporary contracts or they’re recruitment companies trying to harvest personal information rather than actual jobs that they can allocate to you. Where are the rest of the jobs? casual contract jobs with no guaranteed hours which is then made worse by the fact that the welfare system hasn’t been modernised to keep up with that new reality that is in place when it comes to the unstable employment market.

When it comes to the capital gains tax I thought the most eloquent response was from the Green Party leader James Shaw where Winston tried to claim that “it won’t work” and Steven Joyce mentioned the 2 year bright line test (Labour has noted that they will would increase it to 5 years since sitting on property for 2 years is relatively easy) but as James said in reply to both Steven and Winston, it was one in a tool box of available tools that when used in combination will have an impact. Personally if it were me I’d sooner see a capital gains applied across the board without exemptions and then reduce income tax rates so that we don’t have a distortionary effect of pushing people into asset inflation because of the skewed way in which we as a society decide what should or shouldn’t be taxed.

The tax working group was a bit of a laugh where Winston pushed and pushed over Labour not ‘coming clean’ and yet when Winston was answered straight up by Patrick regarding what the bottom line issues for NZ First would be he then turns around and starts waffling on and deflecting – got caught out once again holding others to a standard that he himself cannot hold himself to. If you’re going to go around lecturing about how other politicians should ‘come clean’ then be prepared for the same standard to be thrown back at you. That is the reason why I wasn’t onboard with Rodney Hyde’s ‘perk busting’ and going after Winston Peters because when things backfire they can backfire really badly especially for the person who claimed to have taken the moral high ground.

When it comes to income taxes I am disappointed that National has had 9 year and done very little to address the very real problems that John Key outlined in the ‘Free Radical’ article entitled ‘Creeping Socialism’ where ehe rightfully points out the flaws in the ‘Working for Families’ (WFF) policy passed under the Labour Party. Unfortunately here we are 9 years later and still nothing has changed apart from the ‘Independent Earners Credit’ (IEC) which is a bandaid for the larger issue of the state taking with one hand and claiming to be generous by giving back that money to select groups of people with the other hand. Sure, I wasn’t expecting things to occur maybe in the first term because the government was trying to build up trust and credibility with the New Zealand public but by the second term we should have seen a plan to replace WFF, IEC child tax credit and numerous other tax credits/welfare top ups in favour of a tax free threshold and maybe introduce a higher end bracket for income above $150,000 so essentially low income individuals/families would gain a tax cut, the middle would stay about the same and those at the top would pay slightly more for better services.

Keeping in mind that with the debate it was less about specifics and more about key points of difference along with broad principles and Labour’s spokesperson did a pretty good job sticking to the party line regarding the working group. Regarding the Greens, it was great to see James Shaw really come off as a pragmatic centrist politician that you would never known as a Green Party leader if one weren’t told at the beginning. ACT Party has become less radical than it was when I was in the party back in 2008 which make me wonder whether a more middle ground approach is the game plan that’ll win over disaffected National Party voters who want some change instead of voting in a watered down National Party (which in turn is a watered down Helen Clark Labour government). National was keeping the slow and steady with the promise of ‘more of the same’ because they believe they’re on the right track and wanted to convince the audience (and voters in general) that to change who is in power when the formula they’re using is producing results will result in a backwards slide after doing so much hard work to get to this place.

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