One Question Quiz
Green party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson (Image: Archi Banal)
Green party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson (Image: Archi Banal)

The BulletinJuly 24, 2023

Up to the voters: Greens double down on wealth tax

Green party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson (Image: Archi Banal)
Green party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson (Image: Archi Banal)

Greens co-leader James Shaw says it’s entirely possible the party’s membership will vote for the party to sit on the cross benches if a coalition partner won’t budge on wealth tax, 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.

‘The time is now’

“Let’s be clear: there has never been a better time to shake up our tax system,” said Green party co-leader James Shaw, reportedly to the biggest cheer of the day at the party’s campaign launch in Wellington yesterday. As the Herald’s Michael Neilson writes, it was a not-so-subtle reference to the party’s campaign slogan, “The Time Is Now”, which is not to be confused with the track of the same name used as entrance music by professional wrestler and actor John Cena. As we know, Chris Hipkins ruled out a wealth tax while he is leader of Labour on July 12. Shaw said it was up to voters to state their case and that ruling it out was meaningless if voters wanted one. He said any party the Greens looked to work with could not take their “support for granted”. If they received enough support and if their members agreed, the Greens could opt out of a traditional coalition deal and instead sit on the cross-benches, he said.

Tactical voting becoming ‘redundant’

Vernon Small had an interesting piece yesterday where he argues that the current state of polling is making the concept of tactical voting redundant. Small draws on Toby Manhire’s piece last week about the state of the two main parties, who based on current polling, are on track to pull their smallest share of the vote since 2002. Small writes that “The knowledge there will probably be no centrist party [like United Future or NZ First] acting as a straw in the wind to determine whether National or Labour governs, makes the options so much simpler.” “Rather than calculating how to vote to deliver the lesser of two evils, or how to give your preferred party a coalition option, on current polling you can just vote for the party you like best,” he writes.

Another punt on the likelihood of Labour looking at GST  

Small also joined BusinessDesk’s Pattrick Smellie (paywalled) in suggesting Labour may look at removing GST off some food when it announces its tax policy soon. Like Smellie, Small acknowledges that there are plenty of arguments against this particular policy. Tax experts aren’t fans; it could be expensive to implement, overseas evidence suggests the cuts aren’t passed onto consumers and Deloitte says that because wealthier people buy more food, wealthier people tend to benefit the most. With little tax ground left for Labour to cover in its policy, Small suggests that if “Labour does want to make a bigger splash, prepare the ground for coalition tax talks, and win back some of the voters now fattening up the smaller parties’ polling, it may just go there.” Removing GST from “supermarket basics” was a feature of NZ First’s election campaign launch over the weekend. Leader Winston Peters also said the party would inflation-adjust tax brackets, build a “gang prison” and stop the “indoctrination” of children. Not featured in the launch speech, as Newsroom’s Tim Murphy notes, was a once favourite hobby horse for Peters. The word “immigration” wasn’t mentioned once.

Winter of our discontent

As Murphy writes, Peters wrapped up the launch by saying this was the most important election of the audience members’ lifetimes. Despite that, and despite the urgency conveyed by the Green party’s new slogan, some commentary over the weekend points to a distinct lack of enthusiasm about the upcoming election and a sense of disillusionment about the small target approach and risk adversity from the two main parties in the pursuit of the “centre vote”. BusinessDesk’s Dileepa Fonseka (paywalled) has an interesting read this morning that references Shamubeel Eaqub’s theory that the centre of politics has changed. We don’t have the “big core centre of voters you had after the second world war and during the 1980s,” he says. The “centre” of politics has fractured. Eaqub says “Those very large parties are trying to appeal to the masses, but the masses are fractured, so that’s the real chink in their armour: those very large parties do find it more difficult to be everything to everyone.” The Herald’s Liam Dann wrote (paywalled) that he’s never had lower expectations for an election campaign. Stuff’s Kelly Dennett rode the zeitgeist and asked why Barbie is more inspiring than our politicians. Kudos to Sam Stubbs who gave optimism a nudge by listing four reasons New Zealand is still a great place to live. As Dennett suggests, maybe we just need the rain to stop. Or maybe we all need our own version of John Cena’s hype track.

Keep going!