Never has that old, wise African saying been more poignant: When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.

Trampled New Zealand may be, but there's still plenty of spring left in the pasture as China and the United States go tit for tat in their arm wrestle over who's doing the best on trade.

In his first big economic speech of the year, at least Finance Minister Grant Robertson acknowledged there is an issue for this country at the moment. Like all good relationships, he said, there will be issues arising from time to time that have to be dealt with and we can't shy away from those.


Exporters were encountering issues around softening demand and there were regulatory issues with China, which is shorthand for trouble at the border.

And the elephant trumpet in the room full of suits of course couldn't be ignored.

Robertson unwittingly confirmed the reaction to the Taxation Working Group's report is causing some consternation on the upper floors of the Beehive.

When one politician repeats verbatim what another one has said, the orchestration of the response is obvious. Think of the National Party parrots at the height of the bullying allegations. Both Simon Bridges and his sidekick Paula Bennett were word-perfect, emphasising the "strong culture" in the party and that "people liked coming to work".

They'd been schooled - just like Labour's been over the working group's recommendations.

Robertson's buddy boss Jacinda Ardern told us after Cabinet that "by and large the New Zealand tax system works well", a line repeated word for word by the Finance Minister to the business boffins.

And they were both at pains to point out the Government wasn't bound to take up all of the working group's recommendations, which in real speak means the end result won't resemble the beginning. In fact it'll be vastly different once the coalition cobbers, in particular Labour and New Zealand First, have a roll on the grass.

The only pasture that'll be damaged in this rumble looks set to be the long-suffering taxpayer.


The view of James Shaw of the Greens - that the Government doesn't deserve to be re-elected if it doesn't adopt a capital gains tax - won't be that difficult to resolve. As Winston Peters has repeatedly said, we already have a capital gains tax, it's called the brightline test.