Aug 8 2023

Labour tax policy launch looks likely for weekend

Hipkins admitted Labour’s campaign slogan didn’t connect.

For some weeks now, Labour leader Chris Hipkins has been suggesting that the party’s tax policy will be revealed “within the next few weeks”, but the waiting appears likely to be over soon, with an email to Labour supporters promising “this Sunday we’re going to be making a major announcement about Labour’s plans to help Kiwis with the cost of living”.

Last month Hipkins ruled out the introduction of a wealth tax or new capital gains tax under his leadership, despite his finance minister, Grant Robertson and revenue minister, David Parker, favouring a “tax switch” that would include a new wealth tax. Parker has subsequently resigned the revenue portfolio.

Nicola Willis, the National finance spokesperson, has since said she has seen Labour’s tax policy and it includes a repeat of the party’s 2011 pledge to remove GST on fresh fruit and vegetables. That option, which Hipkins has notably not dismissed, puts Robertson in a pickle, given his previous critique of such a move as a “boondoggle”.

The message to Labour supporters urges them to attend what will mark “a big moment in our campaign”, saying: “Chris Hipkins got into politics to help everyday people get ahead, so you can create a better life for you and your family. This Sunday he’ll be laying out the next steps in our plan to help make it easier for Kiwis.”

Chris Hipkins launching Labour’s election slogan (Photo: Toby Manhire)

Beware the latest text scam

Scams make it harder to trust each other (Photo: Getty Images)

And this time it’s targeting parents.

Cert NZ, the country’s cyber security watchdog, has put out a warning about a text scam circulating in New Zealand. Those targeted will receive a message along the lines of “Mum, I dropped my phone”, with the recipient then directed to text a new number, allegedly to get in contact with their child.

“If responded to, scammers will ask for bank account details and/or credit card details so they can purchase a new mobile phone,” said Cert NZ.

While receiving the unsolicited text didn’t necessarily mean you were at risk, Cert NZ advised people not to respond to any message that could be fake.

“If you are worried that it may genuinely be from a family member, contact them on their regular number first to check. If you can’t get hold of them through normal means, you could also try contacting a close friend to check,” the organisation said.

(Photo: Getty Images)

SFO to investigate misuse of government funding for ’emergency recovery’

A resident wades through a large landslide on Domain Crescent in Muriwai following Cyclone Gabrielle, February 14, 2023. (Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The Serious Fraud Office will look at the “misappropriation” of targeted government spending, including for “emergency recovery”.

That means funding directed to cyclone-hit communities in the North Island could be in the spotlight.

A new “statement of intent” has been released by the SFO, outlining the agency’s priorities for the next four years.

“We are focused on creating a ripple effect from our work that acts to disrupt and deter offenders, through the judicial process and our work in lifting awareness and counter fraud prevention capability,” said the SFO’s director Karen Chang.

Along with wrongful use of government money, the SFO also intends to focus on corporate and commercial fraud, foreign influence allegations and corruption of public officials.

‘A game changer’: Government partners with US investors on climate funding

(Image : The Spinoff)

The government’s partnered with US investment firm BlackRock to launch a new fund with the goal of getting New Zealand to reach 100% renewable energy.

Speaking from Auckland this morning, prime minister Chris Hipkins described the pairing as a “game changer” for the clean tech sector, and a “watershed moment” in New Zealand’s transition to clean energy and net zero emissions.

The $2 billion fund was the first of its kind in New Zealand, said Hipkins, and “demonstrates the huge economic potential of New Zealand being a climate leader and our goal of generating 100% renewable electricity.”

He added: “It proves again that we can grow our economy while we lower emissions. This fund is a massive opportunity for New Zealand innovators to develop and grow companies.”

This was BlackRock’s largest single nation, decarbonisation project to date, said Hipkins, and was proof that New Zealand’s “ambitious targets” had caught the world’s attention.

“I’m absolutely stoked about what this means for Kiwi ingenuity in renewable energy; it shows that our ambitious climate targets have the world’s attention, and that they are good for the climate, good for the economy, and will help create highly skilled jobs,” he said.

(Image : The Spinoff)

Energy minister Megan Woods said the fund will look to investment from Crown companies and entities, including superannuation funds, and private sector funds, to accelerate New Zealand’s transition to 100% renewable electricity.

“This arrangement means we will get there faster, with opportunities for local investment in a low emissions economy. That will be a significant selling point for New Zealand businesses as consumers demand more sustainable products and services,” she said.

The Bulletin: Who is funding the Save Our Stores campaign?

RNZ’s Farah Hancock digs into an online campaign to Save our Stores which, at first glance, appears to be a grassroots campaign from dairy owners. As Hancock details, Facebook ads have been running since August 1, leading people to a website to support a petition to “save our stores” and repeal the Smokefree 2025 Act. Legislation amending the original Smokefree Act was passed in December 2022 and includes a measure to reduce the number of stores selling full-strength tobacco from 6,000 nationwide to 600 by July 2024.

As Hancock reveals, printed at the bottom of the page on the Save our Stores website, in smaller type, are the words “proudly supported” by tobacco companies BAT (British American Tobacco) New Zealand and Imperial Brands. The website’s privacy policy says the website is “provided” by the tobacco companies.

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The PM agrees – this isn’t going to be a ‘big spending’ election

PM Chris Hipkins fronts a press conference. (Photo: Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images)

The prime minister’s backed comments made by Grant Robertson over the weekend, dampening down expectations about any big ticket election year promises.

On TVNZ’s Q&A on Sunday morning, the finance minister said “It is not going to be possible to make big promises” this election due to the current economic conditions. However, he pushed back against claims of a multi-billion dollar hole in the government’s accounts.

As Jo Moir wrote for Newsroom, Robertson was “auditioning for another three years as finance minister and is relying on voters feeling the pinch at home to be unimpressed by politicians promising to spend large sums of money on things the country can’t afford right now”.

And speaking to RNZ this morning, Chris Hipkins doubled down on this position. “We’ll make sure… the policies we put before the electorate in the run up to this election reflect the economic circumstances the country finds itself in right now,” he told Corin Dann.

“We’re going to be very upfront with New Zealanders… that our books will balance, we’ll be making sure we’re managing the government’s finances responsibly and no there is not an infinite supply of money and so we’re going to have to be realistic. In my view, this should not be a big spending election campaign because the current economic circumstances do not support that.”

The long-awaited Labour Party tax policy is expected later in the week, bringing with it – most likely – a plan to ditch GST from fruit and vegetables at the supermarket. That will be the flagship election year policy for Labour, though seems unlikely to carry with it any significant tax cuts or changes as have been pledged by other parties.

Hipkins said the government remained “absolutely committed” to managing finances in a responsible way – “and getting back into surplus is a key priority”.

On Newstalk ZB, the prime minister defended the government’s economic management, saying we are only in a technical recession because of Cyclone Gabrielle and the government had a duty to support businesses and homeowners impacted by the severe weather event.

As with every interview he’s given over the past few weeks, Hipkins remained coy across all his media appearances this morning when pushed for details of the Labour Party tax plan and wouldn’t entertain any hypotheticals.