Labour MPs change minds about Chinese expert submissions

A quick change of stance after Labour MPs block China expert from speaking at select committee.

RNZ: Labour MPs backtrack on Anne-Marie Brady committee decision

Labour MPs have backtracked on their decision to block China expert Anne-Marie Brady from speaking at Parliament after push-back from the Opposition.

Professor Brady had asked to address MPs about foreign interference in elections as part of a justice committee inquiry, but the request was turned down yesterday when the four Labour MPs voted against it.

A government spokesperson said the committee chair, Labour MP Raymond Huo, had a rethink overnight and the committee would briefly reopen submissions to the public later this year.

Mr Huo declined to be interviewed by RNZ, but in a written statement he said he “welcomed” new submissions.

He said yesterday’s decision to block Prof Brady was “purely procedural” and denied he had shifted stance under pressure.

“That’s my own initiative,” Mr Huo said.

However, just hours earlier Mr Huo made no mention of that position in a separate statement sent to RNZ.

“As Committee Chair, I am satisfied that the correct procedure has been followed and that the [intelligence] agencies will keep the committee well informed about any issues of foreign interference that may arise,” he said.

Public attention seems to have had an effect.

Committee member and National MP Nick Smith yesterday called for the committee to reconsider, saying Parliament should hear from New Zealand’s most published academic around the risks of overseas interference in elections.

Dr Smith this afternoon told RNZ he was pleased Mr Huo had had a “change of heart”, but said it was only because he had spoken out.

“It’s blatantly obvious that the Beehive has recognised that silencing an academic on as issue as sensitive as protecting New Zealand from foreign interference was a really bad look and they’ve had to reconsider.”

Newsroom: Govt set to U-turn on Brady block

Committee chairman and Labour MP Raymond Huo, who has featured in Brady’s work for his supposed ties to Chinese government representatives, defended the decision on Thursday, saying it was “purely procedural” given the close of public submissions.

However, a spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Newsroom that Huo had reconsidered the Labour MPs’ original decision upon reflection.

He would discuss the inquiry at the committee next week, with a view to reopening it to public submissions from Brady and others.

While the decision to prevent Brady from speaking had been procedurally correct, the spokesman said there was merit in hearing from her and any others who wished to submit on the issue of foreign interference.

Neither Ardern nor anyone in her office had spoken to Huo about the committee’s initial decision, the spokesman said.

Jacinda Ardern said on 1 News tonight that the Labour MPs had had a change of mind and she thought that was a wise change of position, but kept a distance from that change of stance.

Annette King on Ardern, Peters and the coalition negotiations

It’s not surprising to hear Annette King full of praise for how Jacinda Ardern conducted the coalition negotiations in 2017, but she provides some good insights into how it played out.

NZ Herald – Inside the Coalition talks: How that deal between Jacinda and Winston came about

On election night Annette, despite Labour’s come-back-from-the-dead result, was disappointed. It wasn’t as good as she expected.

On the night Labour won 45 seats, New Zealand First 9 and the Green Party 7, while National had 58 and ACT 1 seat. On those numbers a Labour-New Zealand First-Green government had 61 seats, just enough to govern. But it would have been hard for New Zealand First to opt for that governing arrangement given National was just three seats away from a majority in its own right.

Once the special votes were counted, though, Labour and the Greens picked up a seat each and National dropped two.

So the final numbers read Labour 46, New Zealand First 9 and the Green Party 8. National dropped to 56 and ACT 1, well short of a majority. Between them Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens had 63 seats, increasing the prospects New Zealand First might opt to support a Labour-led Government.

Annette was confident New Zealand First leader Winston Peters would go with Labour.

“I just felt it. The way he was treated [by National]. The way [Parliament’s Speaker David] Carter treated him in Parliament. If I was the Nats I would have spoken to the Speaker and said, ‘Hang on, he’s the leader of a party. You can’t keep on chucking him out and speaking to him in that manner.’

The big unknown, the potential spanner in the works, was the Green Party and its relationship with New Zealand First.

But Annette says [Jacinda] Ardern handled the negotiations with aplomb.

“Watching those negotiations and being in both, the way Jacinda handled the Green negotiations, which were held in the Leader’s lounge in the Opposition wing, and the formal ones [with New Zealand First] on the second floor, and the way she was balancing those and being true to herself and to her values was remarkable. She would not have sold out on the Greens. If Winston had said I’m not having a bar of the Greens or they’re going to have to have nothing, she would not have sold out on them. But she managed to negotiate with the Greens so they got a win without being in the Cabinet but having major Cabinet portfolios outside.”

Annette says what interested her was that the negotiations were all about policy. Contrary to popular opinion, Winston Peters wasn’t that interested in the baubles of power. “He didn’t come in and say I want to be Deputy Prime Minister and want economic development and I want that. He did not. He came in and went through their manifesto portfolio by portfolio.

So was he just offered Deputy and Minister of Foreign Affairs out of the blue?Those baubles must have been negotiated.

“Jacinda pushed back where she didn’t agree and agreed where we did and took copious minutes and then they were shared at the end of the day so we both had the same thing and knew what we were saying. And I just thought we were spending a lot of time on policy, and it seemed to me that the Nats’ time with them was diminishing rather than growing, especially on the last day.”

“He didn’t tell her he was going with her. I think he asked some questions and then a few minutes later, maybe it was minutes, sometime later he came through Bowen [House]. Cameras were following him walking through up to the Beehive theatrette and we’re sitting in Jacinda’s office, some on the couch, some standing up, all watching the television.”

It was theatre a la Winston. It was all about him and his decision – and Ardern and Labour allowed it to happen that way.

 

Cullen to be paid $1k a day for ongoing media work on tax recommendations

I think it’s unusual for the chairman of a Government working group to continue promoting recommendations and defending the Government’s position via media after delivery of their report. I hope it’s more unusual to be paid $1000 a day to do it.

Stuff: Sir Michael Cullen debates impact of tax reform on farmers, without the politics

Sir Michael Cullen has continued his public statements on the impact of capital gains tax, although his tone has softened considerably.

On Wednesday the Tax Working Group chairman released a lengthy statement on the impact the proposals of the Tax Working Group would have on farms.

It came two days after the former Labour MP and minister of finance questioned statements made by the National Party about the possible impact on KiwiSaver.

Cullen did not say why he issued the latest statement, instead claiming he had “responded to a request to comment on recent claims about the effect on farmers”.

This week it emerged that while the Tax Working Group has disbanded, Cullen has had his contract extended by the Government.

Cabinet papers show Cullen was to be paid $1062 a day in his role as chairman of the TWG.

“We extended his appointment as the chair of the TWG to 30 June because we were aware there would be extended public discussion on the report, and this has played out,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said in a statement.

That will be close to $100,000 over three months.  Where is Ardern’s so-called fairness in this?

If Ardern and Robertson aren’t capable of explaining and defending the working group recommendations then perhaps they should be paying Cullen out of their salaries.

Ardern argues in defence of more complicated taxes

Some people (including me) hoped that a decent review of New Zealand’s tax (and welfare) system would lead to simplifications. Complexities add to costs, and they tend to lead to distortions and unfairness – rich people are generally more successful at finding ways around complex tax law.

Jacinda Ardern keeps pushing more ‘fairness’ as a primary reason for tax reform, and she did this again in Parliament yesterday, but she also appeared to concede that this justified a more complicated tax system.

David Seymour: Is it possible that a proposed capital gains tax could be revenue-neutral?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is certainly the request that we made of the Tax Working Group. It was to consider options around making the package revenue-neutral.

That sounds lie a very fuzzy lack of commitment to ‘revenue-neutral’ tax changes.

David Seymour: Why would a Government request advice that would make a tax system more complicated, to get the same amount of revenue?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Two points: firstly, to make the tax system fairer—which seems like a pretty good reason to members on this side of the House—and secondly, almost every member of the OECD manages to deal with what is being asserted to be complicated; why can’t we?

Ardern didn’t dispute “a Government request advice that would make a tax system more complicated” – in fact she justified it  “to make the tax system fairer”.

The more complicated it is the greater the chance of unfair anomalies and loopholes.

Paternalistic Speaker protecting Ardern in Parliament

There have been claims already that Speaker Trevor Mallard has protected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Parliament when under attack by the Opposition.

This came up again after an exchange in Question Time yesterday, where Simon Bridges moved from questions about CGT effects on KiwiSaver to Ardern’s business experience:

Hon Simon Bridges: In light of her comments on fairness, is it fair that under the proposed capital gains tax, the small-business owner will have to pay tax on a third of their business when they sell up for retirement?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, alongside the recommendations around a comprehensive capital gains tax, we’ve acknowledged that, for simplicity, that was what the Tax Working Group suggested. They also put alongside that, increasing the threshold for provisional tax from $1,500 to $5,000, increasing the closing stock adjustment, an increase in the automatic deduction for legal fees, a reduction in the number of depreciation rates.

So there was a suite of options in there, and, again, Mr Speaker, as I know you know, but as I wish the Leader of the Opposition would hear: we have not settled on any of the final recommendations of the report. We are still considering them as a Government.

Ardern brought the Speaker into the discussion.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the problem with answering my questions that she doesn’t understand small business very well?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she told Mike Hosking last week and this morning that she’d run a small NGO that helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I did not tell him that this morning.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she said last week on Mike Hosking that her running a small NGO had helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, I spent more time talking about the fact that my first jobs were all in small businesses. The point that I was making at that time—and actually, I continue to make—is that, as a Government, we are considering all of the issues that have been raised. That includes whether it be residential rentals, whether it be small business, whether it be KiwiSaver.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the NGO she spoke of the International Union of Socialist Youth?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member knows how to use Wikipedia—well done.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has talking to international comrades helped her with her small-business policy development in New Zealand?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the Prime Minister will sit down. We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House. It’s a final warning, and I think Mr McClay will be the first out.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I stand by the fact that I have worked in small businesses, that I have been in charge of hiring and firing, and I’d be interested in how many times he’s had to do that as a Crown prosecutor.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given all the—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Ah, the businessman!

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. Mr Brownlee will now stand, withdraw and apologise.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. What was the problem there? I called him a businessman; I apologise for that.

SPEAKER: The member knows well that he interjected while a member was asking a question. He will now leave the Chamber.

Hon Gerry Brownlee withdrew from the Chamber.

Ex MP Tau Henare:

Ardern was noticeably irritated from early in this exchange.

Richard Harman at Politik: Temper flash from the PM

What appeared to be a flash of temper from the Prime Minister in Parliament yesterday is an indication of how much the capital gains tax debate seems to be getting to her. She and Ministers are getting bogged down in detail as they answer endless questions about how the tax might work…

Audrey Young: Simon Bridges gets the better of Jacinda Ardern over small business experience

Ardern’s loss of form was Bridges’ capital gain as the National leader and the Prime Minister went head to head over a comprehensive capital gains tax (CGT) proposal.

It was a variation on fish and chip shop theme, from the previous day in which slaving over a fat vat in an after- school job gave her insights into how small business owners would be feeling about having to pay 33 per cent tax when they sold up their business for retirement.

Ardern had disputed the NewstalkZB host’s claim that none of the cabinet had experience running a small business.

It was Bridges’ moment but Mallard was having none of it. There are no rules for when applause is tolerated and when it is not. That is decided by the mood of the Speaker who clearly did not like National ganging up on her.

Mallard: “We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House.”

Ardern looks under pressure over the Capital Gains Tax. She and her Government seemed badly prepared for dealing the widely expected recommendations of the Tax Working Group. With a decision still a month or two away, expect National to keep hammering Ardern on this.

Both Mallard and Winston Peters appear to be trying to protect Ardern in Parliament. Grant Robertson also stepped in to help. This looks paternalistic, and doesn’t help Ardern’s case.

Ardern won’t be able to come up with answers on CGT for a while yet, but she at least needs to find a way of handling the questions better – on her own.

 

Clinton rules out 2020 run for presidency a win for Putin?

Hillary Clinton has ruled out another run for the US presidency in 2020. This may be seen as a win for Vladimir Putin, with it being pointed out “how much Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton” – the misogynist versus the sort of feminist.

Could Russia target Ardern and New Zealand democracy? Have they already done this?

CNN:  Hillary Clinton rules out 2020 run, but says ‘I’m not going anywhere’

Hillary Clinton said Monday that she is not running for president in 2020 but will continue to speak out about politics, saying, “I’m not going anywhere.”

“I’m not running, but I’m going to keep on working and speaking and standing up for what I believe,” the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee told CNN affiliate News 12 Westchester.

“I want to be sure that people understand I’m going to keep speaking out. I’m not going anywhere,” Clinton said.

When asked if she would consider running for governor, mayor or any elected office again, Clinton told News 12, “I don’t think so,” adding that she loves living in New York and is grateful for the time she spent as senator of the state.

“What’s at stake in our country, the kinds of things that are happening right now are deeply troubling to me.” She said the country has become “not just polarized, we’ve gotten into really opposing camps unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my adult life.”

Clinton said that “we’ve made a lot of progress” but “we still have a long way to go on women’s rights, on gay rights, on making sure that every person has the same chance to have their dignity and their identity respected.”

This may be why Russia got so involved in the 2016 US election. Whether Trump’s campaign ‘colluded’ with Russia, or whether Russia used Trump to dump on Clinton, are still unanswered questions. The Robert Mueller report may or may not provide answers.

More from Erynn Brook:

It’s basically impossible to say HRC’s name without being bombarded with memes and trolls and propaganda. And that’s all intentional. I’m not talking about her policies. I’m talking about the interpersonal dynamic between Putin and HRC playing out on a world stage.

Oh the dog incident with Merkel isn’t just “related”, it’s more evidence. It’s in the intelligence briefings that’s she’s afraid of dogs. He gave Merkel a stuffed dog the year before. It’s straight up psychological warfare.

Foreign Policy: Putin uses dog to intimidate Merkel

Remember that Hillary Clinton was First Lady when Putin became Prime Minister and then President. Remember that Hillary is widely cited as being the driving force behind her husband’s political career.

Remember that she had an objectively successful political career, AFTER her husband’s impeachment. I don’t mean a while after, I mean like while it’s happening she’s running for state senator in NY. Which she won. That should have been impossible.

Love her or hate her, that’s not what I’m talking about.

Hillary Clinton is demonstrably, a very, very good politician. It’s likely she decided she wanted to be president when she was a kid and that influenced a large majority of her life choices.

So Clinton becomes Secretary of State when Putin is Prime Minister for the second time, and she is a force to be reckoned with. AND she’s the wife of his former American counterpart. She’s the woman he used to tell his wife to entertain. She’s fucking decor to him.

I am begging you to get this: refusal to see the role misogyny played in all of this, in the state of our world right now, is making things worse.

Don’t take my word for it, do your own research. Do some real, substantial research.

And ask yourself: if the richest, most powerful, most dangerous misogynist in the world, thought that the woman who had been coming for him for decades, who saw through all his shit and wasn’t afraid of him, if she was about to get the one job she could get to take him down.

If he saw that coming towards him, if this dangerous man who built a career on crushing political dissidents iduring Cold War, if this “world class misogynist” felt threatened by a WOMAN…

What would he do? What could he do?

Here, I’ll even give you a few places to get started. By all means, if you can show me I’m wrong while still addressing all the Russia crap, without resorting to more misogyny, and with actual, demonstrable, critical analysis, I’d love to hear it.

Brook links to another thread:

And it’s a wider problem.

What are the implications for New Zealand? Jacinda Ardern has positioned herself in stark contrast to both Trump and Putin. New Zealand may not matter much to Russia, but it’s possible Putin could start taking potshots at Ardern. And at our democracy.

Has it already happened? Why did Cameron Slater and Whale Oil actively promote Winston Peters in our 2017 election?

A year ago Peters was in the news here for promoting a trade deal with Russia, and for fudging around while other Western countries condemned Russia for their involvement in the Salisbury nerve agent attacks.

Noted noted: What’s with Winston’s crush on Russia?

With Winston Peters, it’s the Secret Samovar. He has this thing about Russia, and no one can explain why. There was the suggestion, when he began harping on about restoring full trade relations with Russia some years ago, that his close ties with the fishing industry had made him hyper-sensitive to lost trade opportunities in seafood.

This week, Peters has repeated his scepticism that Russia shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine in 2014 and expanded that refusenik-ism to cover the growing suspicion that Russia just poisoned a spy and his daughter in Britain.

He also averred that our getting a free-trade deal with Russia would be just as good, and should be just as big a priority, as scoring one with the European Union.

It may be that Peters admires Putin’s strongman approach in the way he shares some heartland electoral territory with Trump over immigration and protectionism. Among his startling comments as Foreign Minister this week was one expressing sympathy with the US’s proposed new tariffs on aluminium and steel – which had immediately to be contradicted by Trade Minister David Parker.

Anyway, Peters’ preoccupation with Putin’s Russia goes back years; it’s not something he’s just manufactured as a handy coalition prying bar. And dying in a ditch over Russia is hardly the gesture lost NZ First voters – or any other voters, for that matter – would rally around.

It may be a stretch to suggest a Russian-Peters-Slater conspiracy.

It could simply be that to different degrees Peters shares a similar misogynist view with Putin and Trump, seeing themselves as superior to female leaders, and attracted to each other in a ‘strongmen unite’ sort of empathy.

 

Ardern explains ‘well-being’ approach to budget, sort of

The Government is promoting it’s next budget (due in May) as a world first ‘well-being’ focussed budget. They may be putting more focus on aspects of well-being, but it’s only the label and the emphasis that is different.

The last National government had a different label – social investment. Their emphasis may have been different but they were trying to address a similar approach to spending decisions.

Jacinda Ardern was asked about her wellbeing approach on Newshub Nation.


The government’s about to deliver the world’s first well-being budget. Okay, so there seems to be concerns from economists that this budget might not be so much based on data. One of the examples that’s come up recently is the Treasury’s cost-benefit analysis, where it puts a figure, a specific value on things like contact with a neighbour or feeling lonely. I mean, how do you put a value on those things that you can’t count?

Incredibly difficult, granted.

Yeah.

Actually, what some of the Treasury have used actually were — some of the modelling, as I understand, was actually developed under the last government, when they were doing social investment. These are all pieces of information that we use in a budget process. But it is not the thing that determines precisely what we then prioritise. It’s an input. It gives us extra information. Because you’re right — some of it— it’s quite hard to build evidence base in some of these areas, and yet we know the economic impact of, actually, some of the social issues we’re trying to address. Now let me give you an example. Internationally, a big discussion around the economic impact of mental health and well-being — we know that there are groups of our society who are experiencing more social disconnection, less contact with the outside world, greater levels of loneliness. Now, that might seem fluffy, but there actually is an economic impact for that downstream. How do we make sure we prioritise investing in the areas that help us from a social perspective, but also, ultimately, economically too.

But some of the, sort of, criteria seem a bit out of whack, as it were. Like, you’ve got minus-$17,000 for loneliness, and that seems to be a greater figure than avoiding a heart attack and all these kinds of things.

And, unfortunately, the Opposition have completely misused the tool that Treasury has created by comparing cost benefit and outputs incorrectly.

Okay.

Treasury have debunked the way that that’s been dealt with, but the primary point I’d like to make is these are just different pieces of data and evidence we can use. Ultimately, though, we are still the ones making the decision over what changes these things at an intergenerational level.

So tell somebody. I mean, it sounds lovely and a bit woolly. So tell someone. It’s a tangible difference about having a well-being budget. What’s a concrete example?

Let me give you an example. So health, for instance. In the past, we’d just tell you how much we’d spent in the health budget. It doesn’t really tell you anything about the well-being or the health of New Zealanders. So then you’ve seen governments over time would instead tell you how many operations we’re purchasing. But, actually, again, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re investing in a way that saves us money in the long term. What we’re trying to do is factor in, for instance, the fact that children that grow up in poverty are more likely to have health problems as adults just by virtue of that trajectory, and they have the equivalent of what looks like post-traumatic stress. So, actually, if we want to save health dollars here, it makes sense for us to invest in the health and well-being of kids.

Hasn’t that been the motivation of government ministers? Shouldn’t that be the motivation — you know the general well-being of the population from day dot?

It should be, but—

So why do you need the marketing stuff over the top? That should be your primary motivation.

It’s not the way policy is developed or spending decisions are traditionally made. Unfortunately, when you’re a minister — and this has happened through successive governments over decades, and it’s an international problem that was being debated at Davos, for instance —individual ministers, of course, make budget bids in their own area, and so that means that, you know, the Minister of Education might not be thinking about, you know, mental health and well-being issues even though he actually has a role to play in that area. The Minister of Health isn’t necessarily— has the responsibility to deal with what happens with child trauma and child poverty, and yet he picks up the pieces. It’s about trying to get everyone to work together to resolve what are long-term challenges. So, actually, this isn’t about ideology; it’s not about left and right; this is just, I think, a good methodology to use in the future.

Ardern blames media for lumps in CGT porridge

Jacinda Ardern fronted up on the first Newshub Nation of the year. She was asked about the blast of criticism following the release of the Tax Working Group report. She appears to blame NZ Herald columnists for giving the report negative coverage – but she and her Government seemed woefully unprepared for discussion following it’s release.

Yeah, and the Greens are all on board with the capital gains tax. It’s Winston Peters who could prove the hurdle. And you yourself, pre being elected and pre being in this coalition situation have talked about maintaining a right as a leader to make sure the tax working group reports back and that you’re able to— you can enact whatever it say. And, you know, that’s your right, and so that right might be lessened.

I don’t know how that’s been characterised. Of course, we all campaigned as individual party leaders. And everyone will have seen some of the statements I made as Labour leader.

Yeah.

I’m now the Prime Minister in a coalition government, and I have three parties I need to build consensus with. And, actually, that’s what I just have to do day-to-day. And the tax working group report — it’s no different. But having said that, obviously now we’re in a process of just allowing the public to see and the public to have that debate, and I think we should. You know, one of the things that I do think is unfortunate, though, is that, you know, there is a large group of New Zealanders, particularly young New Zealanders now who actually, if their aspiration has been homeownership has just become harder and harder. There’s a group of New Zealanders who don’t have columns in the Herald, who might not be having a chance to have their say on this. We need this debate in New Zealand, because we’re one of only a handful of countries in the OECD that doesn’t have this form of tax.

Sure.

And so let’s debate it.

And you’re leading it. You’re part of that debate, obviously, and your language is being scrutinised. Earlier this week, you seemed to be softening your language about, you know, having concerns about farmers and small businesses. So does that mean that you’re going towards where Winston Peters might sit?

It was an acknowledgement that in all of the debates we’ve had on capital gains. It often has been quite heavily focused in the commentary around, for instance, investment properties, and less so in the space where the tax working group went, which is broad-based and covering additional sources of income, and so small businesses in particular have been brought into that debate. And message was I hear that there’s a lot of arguments for and against, and I hear that. Because that was a new part of the debate, I didn’t want anyone to think that we weren’t considering all of the issues around that area.

So you say that, you know, you’re not going to reveal your position until you’ve reached consensus with your partners.

Yes.

That’s two months away. Are you concerned that this is creating uncertainty?

No. It’s a debate.

It’s a debate that Ardern and her Government started very poorly on, leaving a huge vacuum for concerns to be raised in. The lack of any clear plan has enabled uncertainty to grow, and her waffly response here is unlikely to help at all.

Capital Gains Tax has been proposed in Labour policy for many years. It helped defeat Labour in 2014. as a result Andrew Little dumped the policy. Ardern raised it again in the 2017 campaign but rapidly backtracked when it was slammed as electorally toxic.

Once in Government Ardern handed the decision making over to ex-Finance Minister Michael Cullen and the working group, but a year later, after CGT was proposed in the report, Ardern seems to still be floundering on how to handle it.

She may well have a problem with Winston Peters. whose support she needs. But she also has a problem with her own handling of tax reform – the right say she’s proposing too much, the left say she isn’t considering enough reform.

Rather than some semblance of getting things just right Ardern looks like she is poking at lumpy CGT porridge with a long toothpick.

Substance versus rhetoric on climate change

The prime minister frequently says climate change is her generation’s nuclear issue. But so far there has not been much substance beyond the rhetoric. Certainly oil and gas exploration has been stopped, and conservation has got more funding. Meanwhile James Shaw talks a lot about climate change, and many of his suggestions scare the right of New Zealand politics. In any event if climate change is a central issue the policy can hardly be driven by a minor party. The leadership has to come from the top, from the prime minister herself.

Is there an opportunity to develop a set of climate change and environment policies that will genuinely take New Zealand into a new future? Not policies that set one section of society against the other but are seen as much more uniting than that? Such policies can’t be primarily about telling us how bad we are, but rather need to appeal to our more optimistic natures.

There are indications that a unifying approach is possible. Todd Muller of National, a supporter of the Climate Change Commission, seems to envisage that. Simon Upton, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, has spent his life thinking about these things.

In other countries such as Denmark, Finland and Israel, where the innovation challenge was thought about much more seriously than in New Zealand, there was a unified approach that lasted beyond any one government. But the principal credit belonged to the prime minister who was in charge at the inception of the challenge and who was seen as the principal motivator and organiser of the key policies.

It is already clear that the same opportunity exists with climate change and the environment. Most New Zealanders know things have to change, and they are comfortable with the notion that New Zealand should be a leader, not a follower. It is part of our nation’s ethos.

When there is a $5.5 billion surplus, you might expect a more serious government commitment, say doubling the environment-focused budget to $2 billion. Sure, there are lots of competing priorities for the surplus, but the prime minister has put climate change and the environment among her highest priorities.

As Ardern has said, this is the year of delivery for the Government. She has to start delivering on her own rhetoric soon. Her talk versus walk is becoming a common observation.

Ardern defends CGT and tax plan, Soper sulks

Stuff:  Jacinda Ardern notes ‘vast majority’ would be better off

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delivered a defence of the proposed capital gains tax plan today, noting the vast majority of Kiwis would be better off.

She also said the concerns of farmers and small business-owners were “top of mind”.

The tax working group, chaired by former Labour finance minister Sir Michael Cullen, recommended the Government introduce a new broad-based CGT on rental properties, land, businesses, and shares, paid at the income tax rate. The family home would be excluded.

This would raise roughly $8.3 billion over the next five years, but that could be ploughed back into the hands of taxpayers through a suggested income tax cut, and another tax break for KiwiSaver accounts. This would deliver a tax cut between $420 and $595 a year for almost all taxpayers.

Ardern said that because of this tax switch most Kiwis would come out financially ahead.

“The vast majority of New Zealanders would be better off. I think New Zealanders know this too: they are not ​looking at the proposals individually but as a potential package where they could receive income tax cuts or a boost to their KiwiSavers.”

“In Australia only 4.7 per cent of taxpayers paid capital gains tax in 2015. Over 95 per cent of Australians pay no capital gains tax in any given year,” Ardern said.

Ardern also sought to downplay the impact of the tax in general, saying it would only affect four per cent of the tax base when fully implemented in 10 years.

“It is far from an attack on the Kiwi way of life,” Ardern said.

She said the purpose of her statement was to make sure that the debate was based on facts, and declined again to endorse the actual plan.

Barry Soper’s take: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in state of shock at reaction to Capital Gains Tax plan

If you thought the Government (well more correctly the Labour Party) is hell-bent on committing political suicide you’d be wrong.

The Beehive is reeling and sitting in the top office of the ever diminishing building Jacinda Ardern’s in a state of shock at the reaction to the Taxation Working Group’s report.

Tax had been talked about so much they decided to hand it over to the Tax Working Group, led by Sir Michael Cullen, who knew better than to ever suggest a capital gains tax, correctly appreciating the political danger of it.

Ardern must have been having a nap during the two campaigns Labour fought and lost because of it.

Now she’s wide awake to the political damage it’s doing to Labour, spending the first six minutes of her post-Cabinet press conference yesterday giving us a lesson on how to report it accurately.

Ardern was at pains to ensure the students understood her lecture. The debate should be about a fairer and more balanced taxation system and is most certainly not an attack on the Kiwi way of life as some have claimed.

In her setpiece lecture she told us small business and farming are crucial to the economy and she wanted to be clear, she said referring to her notes on the lectern, that the effects on them will be at the top of her mind when the options are assessed.

Surely that, coming from the captain, leaves room for a sigh of relief.

As the lesson was drawing to a close she told us the bleedingly obvious: that the tax would be paid only when a capital gain is realised, or when an asset gets sold, so there won’t be an ongoing impost.

Until you’ve sold your next asset that is – and the capital gain on any asset won’t be assessed until after the law takes effect, most likely in April 2021. So the nest egg you’ve realised up until then won’t attract the captain’s call.

By and large, Ardern declared, the tax system was working well.

Yeah well if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.

I wonder if Soper has a property nest egg or two he is worried about being taxed on.

It has been claimed that baby boomers will be hit the hardest by a CGT as many have invested in property aas a retirement fund. I have doubts about this.

If Labour get NZ First to agree to support CGT legislation, and if Labour get back into Government later next year, the CGT will only come into force in 2021. If Labour follows TWG advice and don’t make the tax retrospective, only capital gains from 1 April 2021 will be taxed.

So most of the capital gains scored by baby boomer investers, up until then, should be safe from tax. If they sell up soon they will be sweet.

It will be longer term property investors of the future who would pay the bulk of Cullen’s CGT, while baby boomers bask in their gains untaxed.