Jul 27 2023

Response to Te Pāti Māori tax policy: ‘innovative’ or ‘economy-wrecking’?

Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi in action at parliament (Photos: Getty Images/RNZ; design: Archi Banal)

This morning Te Pāti Māori announced their tax policy for the 2023 election, including a tax-free threshold of $30,000, erasing GST on food and increasing taxes for earners above $200,000 a year.

The campaign group Better Taxes for a Better Future has said the policy is innovative, going beyond tweaks to deliver change to the tax system. “New measures to curb land banking and introducing ‘ghost house’ taxes are excellent examples of forward thinking tax policy, and using tax to change behaviour for the public good,” said Fair Tax Coalition chair Glenn Barclay.

Meanwhile, in a press release, National’s campaign chair Chris Bishop has criticised the policy, saying it would “send a wrecking ball through the economy” and was “Labour Party policy by stealth.”

Bishop emphasised the “coalition of chaos” line the party has been using to criticise the government, describing revenue minister David Parker’s dissent over Chris Hipkins’ position on wealth tax and saying that a coalition with the Greens and Te Pāti Māori would be ineffective. “Perhaps this is why Meka Whaitiri defected to Te Pati Māori – they’re basically the same as Labour on policy but with the added perk of not having to be part of the dysfunctional Labour Party.”

National claims Labour planning to remove GST on fruit and veges

Nicola Willis. (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

En route to Question Time today, Nicola Willis told reporters that she’d seen a copy of Labour’s tax policy for the 2023 election. According to Willis, the main item was removing the GST on fruits and vegetables, a policy finance minister Grant Robertson was against in May, saying that GST changes would not be part of the most recent budget.

At a press conference in Christchurch, prime minister Chris Hipkins was tight-lipped about his tax policy, repeating “I’m not going to comment on a policy I haven’t announced” and “National should be more focused on making their own policy add up”.

In a press release, Willis said that the policy was the product of a divided party, and that Grant Robertson previously speaking against such a tweak was a sign that cabinet couldn’t agree on what approach to take to the cost-of-living crisis.

Hipkins also answered questions about AUKUS following the departure of Australian prime minister Anthony Albnese, reiterating that New Zealand was not going to join in the nuclear weaponry aspects of the security pact, but would continue to collaborate with the country’s involved.

In this afternoon’s Question Time at parliament, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman asked foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta if the government’s consideration of joining AUKUS Pillar Two was in alignment with a stated desire for an independent and Pacific-focused foreign policy. Mahuta replied that New Zealand’s position on a nuclear-free Pacific had not changed, and New Zealand was not a party of AUKUS.

West Auckland schools’ lockdown lifted, police investigating ‘highly threatening’ call

Multiple schools went into lockdown in the west Auckland suburb of Te Atatū today after a “highly threatening” phone call was made to Rutherford College.

According to a statement, the college received a phone call of a “highly threatening nature” at 11.22am indicating that an armed person would soon arrive at the school grounds. The school went into lockdown and informed police.

According to Stuff, four surrounding schools, a kindergarten and nine early childcare centres also went into lockdown as a precaution.

A police media release sent at 2.11pm said the lockdown had now been lifted and there are no immediate risks. Police were “continuing to make inquiries” about the phone call and would be maintaining a presence at Rutherford College “for reassurance purposes”.

“These matters are taken seriously, and we understand this will have been alarming for parents and the community,” said the release.

US and NZ on same page over China and Pacific, says Blinken

Antony Blinken and Nanaia Mahuta meet in Wellington. Photo: Marty Melville/Pool

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has dismissed any suggestion that Wellington and Washington are at odds in their approach to China. Speaking at a Beehive press conference alongside his New Zealand counterpart, Nanaia Mahuta, Blinken said he saw across the two countries and among much of the world an “extraordinary convergence of approaches to dealing with the incredibly complex and consequential relationship that we all have with China”. New Zealand and the US shared a “commonality of approach”, he said. While there was “intense competition” between China and the US, with “different visions and different views”, the priority was seeking to build engagement and “make sure the competition doesn’t veer into conflict”.

The US and “trusted partner” New Zealand had a “shared vision” for the Indo-Pacific – the geopolitical term favoured by the US of late – as “a region where countries are free to choose their own paths and their partners, where problems are dealt with openly”, he said. On the Aukus military pact, Blinken said “the door is very much open for New Zealand and other partners to engage” in the proposed “pillar two”, a secondary tier to the deal signed by the US, UK and Australia centred on nuclear submarines.

Antony Blinken and Nanaia Mahuta meet in Wellington. Photo: Marty Melville/Pool

Blinken showered praise on New Zealand and Mahuta, who said she welcomed the increased US focus and commitment to the Pacific. Blinken said the morning’s pōwhiri, at which he was welcomed to parliament alongside the prime minister, Chris Hipkins, “is something I will never forget”.

In a statement, Hipkins said his discussions with Blinken this morning spanned “regional challenges within the Indo-Pacific, including climate change and the intensifying geostrategic interest within the Pacific, and a commitment to continue to support our Pacific partners where they request it”.

Blinken is in New Zealand after visiting Tonga, as part of a broad US diplomatic push to increase diplomatic efforts as China increases its influence in the Pacific. His next appointment: the US v Netherlands game at the cake tin in Wellington. 

Te Pāti Māori unveils policy for ‘radical tax reforms’

Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi (Getty Images)

In announcing its tax policy this morning, Te Pāti Māori has proposed reforms it calls “transformative” and “radical”, that would “redistribute wealth and end poverty in Aotearoa”. The proposals include a new wealth tax, an increase in income tax for those earning over $200,000, a tax-free threshold for income up to $30,000 and an increase in the corporate tax rate to 33%. They are also calling for GST to be scrapped on food while “regulating the ability of supermarkets to hike prices”. There would also be new taxes for foreign companies, land banking and vacant houses.

“Our vision is simple, yet profound: to shift the burden of tax from the poor to the wealthy, and to restore fairness and economic justice. We believe in an Aotearoa Hou where ordinary people don’t have to subsidise the extravagant lifestyles of the rich,” said co-leader Rawiri Waititi.

Māori Party co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi (Getty Images)

Labour’s tax policy is expected imminently. This week David Parker vacated the revenue portfolio after his efforts to have a wealth tax introduced were scotched by a “captain’s call” by Chris Hipkins, who has pledged no new capital gains or wealth tax as long as he is prime minister. The Green Party, whose support Labour is likely to need as well as that of Te Pāti Māori if it is to form a government after the election, last month released a tax policy including a wealth tax and a universal income guarantee.


Free Auckland-Hamilton tickets for a week as Te Huia cleared to return to city

Te Huia, the Hamilton-Auckland commuter train. (Photo: Grady Connell)

A fortnight after the Hamilton-Auckland rail service was banned from coming to the central city following repeated breaches of red signals, Te Huia has been cleared to continue beyond its current limit of Papakura. KiwiRail has announced it will celebrate the return of the service to Parnell The Strand with free passage for the first week back, likely to be from August 7.

On July 11, Waka Kotahi issued a prohibition notice for the Auckland metro network area after Te Huia was involved in two separate Signal Passed at Danger incidents. It was initially suggested that a resumption of service was contingent on new safety equipment, in the form of a European Train Control System, which could take more than a year to procure, but the regulator has now announced that sufficient new safety measures meant it was satisfied that the service could return.

An alternative safety system, called Electronic Train Protection, has been installed, which slows a train as it approaches a red signal and automatically brings it to a halt if passed. 

“We thank the regulator for their engagement and consideration and are pleased the disruption for passengers will soon end,” said KiwiRail’s head of operations, Paul Ashton, in a statement. “Before resuming the service, we will ensure all of our Te Huia drivers do further route training. KiwiRail took both incidents seriously, and has worked closely with the rail regulator to resolve its concerns. The rail network is safe and well managed, and we want to assure the public of this.”  

Te Huia, the Hamilton-Auckland commuter train. (Photo: Grady Connell)

The Bulletin: Metservice vs Niwa – weather forecasting systems to be reviewed

The government has announced it will review weather forecasting systems. State Owned Enterprises minister Duncan Webb confirmed the review would begin in September and focus on improving the system, taking climate change and infrastructure into account. There have been questions cropping up for a while about why we have two publicly owned bodies, MetService and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), competing to provide forecasts and was most recently covered by Media Insider, Shayne Currie (paywalled).

They were both created in 1992 with MetService to focus on providing a forecasting and warnings service while Niwa, would focus on research. The lines between the two have gotten blurry. A recent public spat saw MetService alleging Niwa’s forecasts may be injurious to public safety when used by the Department of Conservation. MetService is a state-owned enterprise and Niwa is a Crown research entity. As the RNZ story notes, under competition law, it’s become “trickier” for them to share information or agree on areas where they would not compete. The final report will be returned in February 2024.

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Further details of Kiri Allan crash reported as Labour caucus faces leaking claims

Kiri Allan in 2020 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

It’s been reported that Kiri Allan was found 500 metres away from the crash that ended her political career.

The Post has published claims this morning that police dogs were used to track the former justice minister after a late night collision with a parked car on Sunday.

While police and the prime minister’s office have not confirmed the report, a resident near the site of the car crash said they heard dogs barking in a police car.

Allan was charged with careless use of a motor vehicle and refusing to accompany a police officer. She has since confirmed she won’t contest this year’s election and a new Labour candidate for the East Coast electorate will be chosen imminently.

Yesterday also saw reports of a leak from the typically watertight Labour caucus of additional claims, levelled by a first term MP, that Allan had bullied them. That initially came from The Post as well, though Newshub verified the claim and political editor Jenna Lynch delivered an uncomfortable report on last night’s 6pm bulletin, with senior ministers rolled out to repeat the line “we don’t talk about anything that happens in caucus”.

The only minister to go beyond that comment was Kieran McAnulty, who admitted he was “disappointed to hear that it’s happened”.

Former National Party leader Judith Collins, who would know all about the struggles of a leaking caucus, said: “It’s a bit like a hole in a balloon really, it all comes out.”

Writing for Stuff today, Tova O’Brien said the leaks brought further bad news for the government. “Leaks tend to beget other leaks,” she wrote. “When the factions are so entrenched, when they feel their side’s losing or – in the case of low list or marginal electorate seat MPs – their jobs are at stake, leaking is the last desperate gasp of self-preservation.”