While Labour copped flack for a payment going to the people overseas and the deceased, National seemingly confirmed, benched, reinstated and re-clarified a tax policy in the space of 36 hours, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in The Bulletin.
Dead people receive cost of living payment
It feels like a bad week for policy when you’ve got one party defending a cascade of cost of living payment issues and another inspiring the headline “The tax policy flip flop gets flippier”. The Herald’s political editor Claire Trevett, in a very funny piece (paywalled), described trying to get clarity on cost of living numbers as “watching octopuses play Twister”. In the house on Wednesday, opposition leader Christopher Luxon asked the prime minister whether Kiritapu Allan was correct when she stated that the cost of living payment scheme had been developed “essentially overnight”. Allan made the “essentially overnight” reference on Tova O’Brien’s show on Today FM on Wednesday morning. On it went, as the prime minister distanced herself from a Labour Party fundraising email about the payments and we learned that the payments had gone to people who are dead.
36 hours of tax policy confusion from the National Party
On Wednesday morning Luxon told RNZ that lifting the tax thresholds in line with inflation would have been the most “simple and elegant” way to deal with rising costs. The Herald’s Thomas Coughlan published a story on Thursday morning about opposition finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis confirming the party’s tax policy was “on the bench for now”. The policy in question was one put forward for Budget 2022 and included adjusting the bottom three tax thresholds to account for the inflation. Chris Hipkins issued a press release saying the confusion showed National was in “disarray”. Chris Bishop called the attack “dirty political tricks” from Labour. By yesterday afternoon National were promising even bigger tax cuts in its 2023 election manifesto, if economic conditions allow.
Cost of living payments “fiddling around the edges”
On the latest episode of Gone By Lunchtime (GBLT), Annabelle Lee-Mather said the cost of living payment is “fiddling around the edges” and asked why the government hadn’t sorted out more systematic issues like the cost of food and electricity, or spent the money wiping out the debt people have with Work and Income. Former National MP Paula Bennett said beneficiaries deserve the payment more than anyone, a position shared by Green Party co-leader Marama Davis. Fellow GBLT-er, Ben Thomas has questioned the government’s lack of vision in his latest Stuff column, while Shane Te Pou has questioned whether Luxon is up to the job (paywalled).
“Tit for tat on tax”
This stuff is all good grist to the mill for political commentary. Politics is sport and politics is theatre. They say “the government you elect is the government you deserve”. However, and I accept this might be a bit high-minded for a Friday, people who don’t spend all day immersed in beltway banter might be hoping for a bit more than sport, theatre, press release ping pong and guesstimates about how many people got a payment they’re not entitled to. Ah well, it’s a fresh week next week and maybe there will be less “tit for tat on tax”, as described by RNZ’s political editor Jane Patterson. Or perhaps more good souls will donate their cost of living payments to charity.