National’s leader is proposing sending receipts to every taxpayer. His own MPs aren’t asking for “receipts” on his ability to win an election just yet but concerns are mounting, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.
Show us the receipts
I’m back after three weeks in Japan. Huge thanks to Catherine for steering the ship and to Toby and Duncan for also stepping in. There is much to admire about Japan (high-functioning rail) but there’s one thing Japan loves that I do not: paper receipts. Receipts were handed over with every single purchase and they had to be taken. Receipts are useful if you need proof of purchase for an exchange or refund and record-keeping on expenses, but physical receipts are becoming increasingly obsolete in New Zealand in an age of digital and electronic retailing. “Receipts” also has a slang connotation – that of proof or evidence. Opposition leader Christopher Luxon launched his own call for literal receipts yesterday as part of a range of pre-budget fiscal disciple announcements.
Willis says they could done using artificial intelligence
As Newshub’s Jenna Lynch says, the idea of sending receipts to every taxpayer so they can see how their taxes have been spent, doesn’t seem to be fully formed but Lynch thinks it could be popular. Prime minister Chris Hipkins called them “spin doctor-y type letters” and “a waste of money”. National’s finance spokesperson Nicola Willis said she thought AI (artificial intelligence) could probably write them. Newshub asked the most ubiquitous form of AI-powered technology, ChatGPT, to write a receipt for every New Zealand taxpayer and the computer said no, deeming the task impossible. As Luke Malpass writes in The Post this morning (paywalled), the idea originated out of an American think tank, was mooted by the Act party in the 1990s and hasn’t done much to create a culture of taxpayer awareness in Australia. Malpass describes the idea as politically irrelevant. It grabbed headlines and was perhaps designed to do so as a way of making the subject of fiscal discipline more broadly appealing.
Luxon’s more substantive calls
The retail politics receipts idea has ended up overshadowing the more substantive tenor of Luxon’s speech and the other two proposals: reintroducing performance pay for public sector bosses and more rigorous reporting on the success of government programmes by Treasury. Malpass rates the latter if implemented properly. BusinessDesk’s Dileepa Fonseka (paywalled) has details on Luxon’s call to allow councils to take out debt on longer terms. In a media stand-up after the event, Nicola Willis said getting infrastructure built would need a different approach to financing and, as Fonseka writes, the government is also teasing infrastructure spending and debt limit changes in this Thursday’s budget. Luxon was pitching all this to a business audience and as Politik’s Richard Harman writes, made a point of repeatedly mentioning he was not a politician but a former CEO.
Concerns being raised about National’s polling performance
Despite his business credentials, both Harman and the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan (paywalled) are reporting a rumour that’s made its way to the National party caucus that some Auckland business leaders are “gingerly trying to get Willis to step up to the plate. Even after a rocky couple of months for Labour, the latest polling doesn’t show a lot of gain for National and once again, Luxon isn’t making much headway in the preferred Prime Minister rankings, falling 2.4 points to 16.4%, while Chris Hipkins was up 3.8 points to 23.4%. As Coughlan notes, the veracity of the rumour can’t be ascertained but Coughlan also reports on concerns from National party supporters and MPs about why National isn’t doing better in the polls. Rolling Luxon still seems to be viewed as the least desirable action with the party wanting to put the last few chaotic years behind them.