Barry Soper: Labour kicking tyres ahead of Budget

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Being in political opposition isn't where anyone wants to be. It has often been said that being the opposition leader in New Zealand politics is the toughest job on the block.

Certainly that was the view of Helen Clark, who on a trip back from the Big Apple a couple of years back, lamented she was on the outside looking in for six years before the Beehive's ninth floor door opened to her.

By contrast, John Key had just two years banging his head against a brick wall before assuming the top political job. Andrew Little's hoping to pull it off after three years of tyre kicking.

And that's what being in opposition is, kicking tyres, hoping they're attached to a vehicle that the public feels comfortable going along for the ride in. But if Little thinks there'll be a warrant of fitness for the current housing woes in this Thursday's Budget - which he believes there should be otherwise it's a failure - then he's on a road to nowhere.

While the salesmen for this year's Budget, Key and Bill English, speak to swanky luncheons full of suits, Labour has to make do with breweries and polo fleeces on a bleak Sunday afternoon and Monday breakfasts in accountancy offices with a few dozen people who'd probably prefer to be elsewhere.

At least Grant Robertson showed he had a sense of humour as he tried to sell the Labour sizzle, saying success isn't always as it appears to be, just as the winner of ten-week reality TV show The Bachelor discovered.

He likened that to the on-again off-again relationship of Key and English when it comes to tax cuts. They were initially off English's table but a few days later they were the centrepiece of Key's three billion dollar election year banquet.

Robertson says they should stop teasing the electorate and spell out exactly how they'd be paid for in Thursday's tome, or take them off the table altogether. This, of course, won't happen.

Labour's carrot to the hungry electorate is to immediately establish a Tax Working Group to figure out who's paying their fair share and who's not - which is hardly a vote catcher.

It's a bit like John Key's jobs summit that he established on taking office and the nine-day working fortnight he said would be a priority. We're still waiting and unemployment's still with us.

The fact is, when you've got a growing job market you're always going to have unemployment as business plays catch-up, and while you've got tax accountants you'll always have avoidance.

There's no easy answer, but being in Government at least gives you a greater opportunity to come up with one.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZME.

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