World watch – Friday

Thursday GMT

WorldWatch2

For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.

Beginnings of the Tax Working Group

Michael Cullen has been announced as chair of the Tax Working Group, and Terms of Reference have also been detailed.

There are no big surprises, yet, but there are contradictions. A major aim is simplification but things that won’t be considered like CGT on ‘family homes’, and things that will be considered, like GST exemptions, would complicate the tax system.

Towards a fairer tax system – Tax Working Group Terms of Reference announced

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash today announced the Terms of Reference for the Tax Working Group and that the Group will be chaired by Sir Michael Cullen.

“Our 100 Day Plan includes the establishment of a Tax Working Group. The Working Group will consider changes that would improve the structure, fairness and balance of the tax system,” says Grant Robertson.

“This Government is committed to a fair and progressive tax system. It is important that New Zealanders have confidence in their tax system and know that everyone is paying their fair share.”

“At the moment the tax system appears unfair – for example, it doesn’t treat income from speculation in housing as it does income from work.

Most people think that tax they have to pay is unfair, and that tax others can avoid paying is also unfair.

Making it ‘fair’ to everyone is pretty much impossible.

We want to consider how we can create a better balanced system and can encourage a shift to investment in the productive economy.

“Individual wage-earners, businesses, asset owners and speculators should pay their fair share of tax. Right now we don’t think that is happening. This working group is not about increasing income tax or the rate of GST, but rather introducing more fairness across all taxpayers.

“The Working Group will also consider how the tax system can contribute to positive environmental outcomes and the impact of likely changes to the economic environment, demographics, technology and employment practices over the next decade.

“As former Minister of Finance from 1999 to 2008, Sir Michael’s credentials are impeccable and he will be a huge asset to the Working Group.”

Cullen is widely respected, but he has a very Labour background.

“The other members of the Working Group will be announced before Christmas. They will include a diverse range of tax and finance experts and representatives of the business and wider community. The Working Group will be supported by a secretariat of officials from Treasury and Inland Revenue and have an independent advisor to analyse the various sources of advice received,” says Stuart Nash.

The make up of the group will be interesting.

“Final recommendations to Ministers are expected by February 2019. As promised before the election, any significant changes legislated for from the Group’s final report will not come into force until the 2021 tax year.

“It is important to ensure that all sectors of the New Zealand economy can feed into the Working Group’s processes and that all relevant perspectives are considered.”

“As we promised during the election campaign, certain areas will be outside the scope of the review, including increasing any income tax rate, the rate of GST, inheritance tax and changes that would apply to the family home or land beneath it,” Grant Robertson says.

Potentially omplicating factors that can’t be considered.

“We also want to thank our government partners, the New Zealand First and Green parties, for their input and support of the Terms of Reference for this important piece of work on the future of our tax system.

“This review is a core part of the government’s programme and I’m confident it will deliver recommendations that will enable us to put in place a tax system that is fair for all New Zealanders,” says Grant Robertson.

NZH:  Details of Government’s tax working group revealed

Robertson said what other reforms were considered would be up to the working group, but he did not rule out a number of possibilities raised by media during a press conference.

They included taking GST off fruit and vegetables or women’s sanitary products, requiring overseas retailers to collect GST on goods bought by New Zealanders, and changes to tax treatment of KiwiSaver.

Starting to introduce exemptions on GST could be the beginning of a slippery slope.

The other members of the eight-person tax working group are yet to be confirmed, but Robertson said there would likely be union representation, business representation, Maori business representatives as well as tax experts.

Trying to cover all bases, people wise.

The group’s objectives include having a “sustainable revenue base to fund government operating expenditure” of about 30 per cent of GDP, as well as:

• A tax system that is efficient, fair, simple and collected

• A system that promotes the long-term sustainability and productivity of the economy

• A system that treats all income and assets in a fair, balanced and efficient manner, having special regard to housing affordability

• A progressive tax and transfer system for individuals and families, and

• An overall tax system that operates in a simple and coherent manner.

The working group should report to the Government on:

• Whether the tax system operates fairly in relation to taxpayers, income, assets and wealth

• Whether the tax system promotes the right balance between supporting the productive economy and the speculative economy

• Whether there are changes to the tax system which would make it more fair, balanced and efficient

• Whether there are other changes which would support the integrity of the income tax system, having regard to the interaction of the systems for taxing companies, trusts, and individuals.

In examining the points above, the working group should consider in particular the following:

• The economic environment that will apply over the next 5-10 years, taking into account demographic change, and the impact of changes in technology and employment practices, and how these are driving different business models,

• Whether a system of taxing capital gains or land (not applying to the family home or the land under it), or other housing tax measures, would improve the tax system.

• Whether a progressive company tax (with a lower rate for small companies) would improve the tax system and the business environment, and

• What role the taxation system can play in delivering positive environmental and ecological outcomes, especially over the longer term.

The following are outside the scope of the working group’s review:

• Increasing any income tax rate or the rate of GST

• Inheritance tax

• Any other changes that would apply to the taxation of the family home or the land under it, and

• The adequacy of the personal tax system and its interaction with the transfer system (this will be considered as part of a separate review of Working for Families).
In addition, the focus of the working group should not be on more technical matters already under review as part of the Tax Policy Work Programme, including:

• International tax reform under the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting agenda, and

• Policy changes as part of Inland Revenue’s Business Transformation programme.

Sounds like a lot to consider.

A billion or half more trees

National MP Simon Bridges has accused the Government of halving it’s tree planting plan. Yesterday a press release from Simon Bridges: So, half as many trees then?

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is already backtracking from his promise to plant a billion trees in 10 years, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“From his statements earlier today it appears he’s realised that the pledge of a billion new trees is entirely unachievable and now he’s attempting to back away from it,” Mr Bridges says.

“His problem is that the target is recorded unambiguously in both the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement and the Speech from the Throne on the new Government’s programme.

“Now he wants to count around 50 million trees that are already planted every year, about half of the billion he’s committed to over a decade. These are happening regardless of his slush fund or the kind of Government in power.

“So his first action is to cut his target in half. Not exactly impressive.

“He needs to immediately stop using his slogan of 1 billion trees to be planted because it’s completely untrue. He should also stand up in Parliament and correct the Speech.

“This backsliding is becoming a pattern for this Government. They want to count trees that are already being planted in their tree target and houses already being built in their housing target. It’s all very underwhelming.

Included in the Labour-NZ first coalition agreement:

Coalition Priorities

In this parliamentary term, New Zealand First has a number of priorities to progress which Labour will support alongside its policy programme. These include the following goals:

Regional Economic Development and Primary Industries

  • $1b per annum Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund, including:
    • Planting 100 million trees per year in a Billion Trees Planting Programme.

That implies a Government Fund for a Billion Trees Planting Programme.

From the Speech from the Throne:

The New Zealand Forestry Service will be re-established and located in regional New Zealand. This government is committed to a new planting programme, planting 100 million trees a year to reach a billion more trees in ten years.

That says “a new planting programme”.

But news reports had made it clear the plan was to double existing tree planting numbers.

Newshub on 25 October: Revealed: Shane Jones Minister for 100 million trees, $1 billion regional fund

Shane Jones will be the Minister responsible for spending $1 billion a year on New Zealand’s regions.

Newshub has also learned that Jones will also be in charge of the new Forestry Service, which will plant 100 million trees a year – with the goal of planting a billion over 10 years.

It is understood that about 50 million trees are already planted in New Zealand each year, meaning the new Government’s planting will double that.

That clearly says doubling to 100 million trees a year, or to 1 billion trees in total.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern told the AM Show on Wednesday the fund will help grow the regions.

“Labour went to the election with a $200 million fund. NZ First came to us and made the case strongly for greater regional investment, particularly around infrastructure. So this fund will include, for instance, a number of regional rail projects,” she said.

“It will include an extensive planting regime for forestry. Our intention is to double the amount of planting that goes on in forestry right now.”

A clear statement of intent to double the number of trees currently being planted.

Ardern responded to Bridges accusations yesterday – 1 billion-tree aim ‘always a joint goal’

But Ardern told reporters yesterday the Government was never going to plant 1 billion trees on its own.

“We’ve always been really clear. We see a role for the Forestry Service to work alongside those in the private sector to ensure we’re supporting the planting of those trees.”

She pointed to Air New Zealand’s announcement on Tuesday to work with the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries to fund tree-planting over up to 15,000ha in return for carbon benefits.

“Overall our goal is a billion trees being planted. It would be splitting hairs trying to decipher whether or not that [tree] was solely Government [or] solely private sector … this is a collaborative approach.”

Labour and NZ First may be guilty of not being absolutely clear about their intent on tree planting in their agreement and in the Speech from the Throne, but it seems clear from other reports that they intended to double plantings to 100 million a year.

I think to most people both half a billion and a billion trees is a lot, and they won’t care (if they notice) whether it is a doubling of planting or additional.

Bridges needs to be careful he doesn’t inherit the ‘barking at every passing car’ syndrome.

On this he looks a bit pedantic and guilty of petty nitpicking.

USA: Russian collusion probe

Investigations continue into possible Russian collusion by both Democrats and republicans in last year’s US election.

Washington Examiner: Fusion GPS paid journalists, court papers confirm

Newly filed court documents confirm that Fusion GPS, the company mostly responsible for the controversial “Trump dossier” on presidential candidate Donald Trump, made payments to three journalists between June 2016 until February 2017.

The revelation could be a breakthrough for House Republicans, who are exploring whether Fusion GPS used the dossier, which was later criticized for having inaccurate information on Trump, to feed anti-Trump stories to the press during and after the presidential campaign.

The three journalists who were paid by Fusion GPS are known to have reported on “Russia issues relevant to [the committee’s] investigation,” the House Intelligence Committee said in a court filing.

“Fusion GPS is a research firm set up by former investigative journalists,” Fusion GPS’s lawyer, Josh Levy, said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

“As such, it sometimes works with contractors that have specialized skills seeking public information. Contractors are not permitted to publish any articles based on that work, and Fusion GPS does not pay journalists to write stories.”

Levy also dismissed the Republican idea that these payments were somehow aimed at or otherwise used to help get anti-Trump stories written by the press.

“This is simply another desperate attempt by the president’s political allies to discredit Fusion GPS’s work and divert attention from the question these committees are supposed to be investigating: the Trump campaign’s knowledge of Russian interference in the election,” Levy said.

But House Republicans still have their doubts. One of the documents filed by lawyers for the House Intelligence Committee said each of the three reporters who received payments had written about the Russia probe, which could indicate that reporters were using Fusion GPS’s work to write their stories.

The dossier has become one of the central components of the investigations being carried out by the House and Senate Intelligence committees, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee. Investigators are trying to determine how the dossier may have influence the intelligence agencies during the 2016 election.

The Washington Examinerreported that “FBI and Justice Department officials have told congressional investigators in recent days that they have not been able to verify or corroborate the substantive allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign outlined in the Trump dossier.”

And more on that from The Hill: Mueller investigating Kushner’s communication with foreign leaders

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators are looking into White House senior adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his contact with foreign leaders, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Mueller’s team is probing Kushner’s involvement in the controversy surrounding a United Nations resolution passed in December 2016 that condemned Israeli settlement construction.

Trump, who was president-elect at the time, called for the U.S. to veto the resolution, saying it was “extremely unfair to all Israelis.”

The U.N. Security Council passed the resolution days later as the U.S. abstained from vetoing it.

The newspaper reports that Israeli officials reached out to several top officials involved in Trump’s transition, including Kushner and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, and that Mueller’s probe is asking questions about those overtures.

Mueller’s investigators are also looking into Kushner’s role in setting up meetings and communication with foreign leaders during Trump’s transition, according to the newspaper.

Investigations into possible collusion seem likely to take some time.

The end result may be that Russia tried to influence the election, but both Republicans and Democrats were trying to use Russian resources to gain an advantage.

US politics looks like a dirty business all round.

 

 

Surge in New Zealand confidence rating

Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating: 146.5 pts (up 15.5 pts)

This is the highest confidence rating since January 2010, which was in the first term of the John Key led National government.

 “Generally speaking, do you feel that things in New Zealand are heading in the right direction or would you say things are seriously heading in the wrong direction?”

  • Right direction 66.5% (up from 58.5%)
  • Wrong direction 20% (down from 27.5%)
  • Can’t say 13.5% (little change from 14%)

That’s a positive shift.

National supporters may generally still have confidence while Labour/Green/NZ First supporters will have gained confidence.

 

Roy Morgan: New PM Jacinda Ardern drives surge in New Zealand Government Confidence

 

 

Government supported in latest RM poll

The November Roy Morgan poll suggests a shift in support towards Labour and Greens since the election, but NZ First has slipped.

National are still slightly ahead of Labour, but have dropped.

  • National 40.5% (election 44.45%, October 46%)
  • Labour 39.5% (election 36.89%, October 31%)
  • Greens 10% (election 6.27%, October 11%)
  • NZ First 5% (election 7.2%, October 6.5%)
  • ACT 0.5% (election 0.5%, October 0.5%)
  • TOP 2% (election 2.44%, October 2%)
  • Maori Party 1.5% (election 1.18%, 1.5%)
  • Other 1% (election 1.07%, October 1.5%)

Labour+Greens are 49.5%, and Labour+NZ First+Greens are 54.5%, the highest

This is early days for the new Government but indications are that there is general support for it.

The October poll was taken not long after the September election and during coalition negotiations, which may explain it’s swings, especially for Labour.

A poll at this stage doesn’t mean a lot but is of some interest as it indicates that the Labour led government seems to be generally well supported.

Electors were asked: “If a New Zealand Election were held today which party would receive your
party vote?” This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by
telephone – both landline and mobile – with a NZ wide cross-section of 887 electors during
October 30 – November 12, 2017. Of all electors surveyed 2% (down 1.5%) didn’t name a party.

 

Summary: New PM Jacinda Ardern drives surge in New Zealand Government Confiden

Detail: Tableau PDF

General chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Media watch – Thursday

23 November 2017

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Open Forum – Thursday

23 November 2017

Forum

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts.

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria.

Free speech is an important principle here but some people who might pose a risk to the site will have to keep going through moderation due to abuses by a small number of malicious people.

World watch – Thursday

Wednesday GMT

WorldWatch2

For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.