Joanne McNeill: PM's popularity amazes me

By Joanne McNeill

12 comments
Joanne McNeill.
Joanne McNeill.

Earlier this year, Inland Revenue made a point of cracking down on tradies doing untaxed cash jobs.

It's not fair on those who do pay tax, they said. "Just be honest, mate," they wheedled endearingly.

Cash jobs are a time-honoured tradition from which no tradie ever got rich. However, in socialist democracies such as ours (albeit eroded by the ravages of privatisation by which successive governments have progressively abdicated from the responsibilities we pay them to shoulder) we all understand the need to pay taxes to fund our essential collective institutions and services, such as police, fire, education, health, arts, public radio, justice, roads and welfare.

Tax lost from cash jobs amounts to nothing like the astronomical sums which might be collected from global corporates such as Apple, Google and Facebook whose massive presence and profits in our market are matched only by the amount of tax they manage not to contribute to the common good and by IRD's deafening silence on their moral responsibilities to do so.

The same goes for the potential tax bonanza which might be shared - both here and in the countries from which the secreted wealth originates - by the foreign trusts which, the Panama papers have revealed, use New Zealand as the "Switzerland of the Pacific" to hide the wealth of the super rich from tax collectors.

Apparently, according to PM John Key, technically New Zealand is not a tax haven, it's just a country with a comprehensive, confidential, asset protection and tax minimisation system; although a dead rat by any other name would smell just as rotten.

Recently, it was discovered PM John Key's personal lawyer, who heads a company which specialises in foreign trusts, lobbied the revenue ministry to save the foreign trust industry from the spectre of tightened rules; never mind the tax losses.

None of this is surprising.

Ever since Roger Douglas, Jenny Shipley et al began dismantling the regulated machinery of state and the notion of collective responsibility and replacing them with private greed in the erroneous apparent belief markets will magically self-regulate in a morally beneficial fashion (yeah, right), loyalty to society, community, environment, openness, fairness and honesty have gone west.

Money-lenders have been reinstated to a place of honour in the temple of the almighty dollar, crony capitalism rules, and morality has become a moveable feast.

What is astonishing though is that no matter how many allegedly questionable moves might be linked with PM John Key, no matter what destruction his Government wreaks - such as the systematic dereliction of New Zealand Rail just when carbon emissions reduction is becoming crucial, trading in dodgy carbon credits, and failure to tax profits on the offshore export of our precious water with the convenient semantic excuse that no one owns it - his popularity remains intact.

No one seems to care.

Why? My theory is National voters are so seduced by the illusion of monetary wealth they hope enough will rub off on them, so they can stash it in tax havens too.

As New Zealand slips down Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, it seems there's one rule for rich jet-setters - where "Just be honest, mate" doesn't apply - and another for ordinary people working hard to get by.

- Northern Advocate

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