Welcome to the Politics Briefing, the week National showed voters how it would boost their back pockets by $14.6 billion and some of the rather creative ways it would pay for the tax package.
Labour and housing experts have cast doubt on its claim it could raise $2.9b over four years with a 15 per cent tax on foreigners buying houses priced over $2 million. Australia and Singapore would be exempt under trade deals, but it appears China would also be exempt under a 2019 tax agreement that says Chinese cannot be taxed more than New Zealanders.
As David Parker put it in Question Time: “Can the Minister of Finance confirm that the assumptions as to revenue from a stamp duty to foreign buyers are braver than Charles Upham - and he had two VCs?”
Among the other controversial measures to fund National’s tax package is a raid on the Climate Emergency Response Fund to raise $2.3b over four years; getting immigrants to pay more for visas; and a plan to get $716m through taxes on offshore gambling sites operating in New Zealand.
National finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis has declined to supply critics with the assumptions on which the funding was based. Leader Christopher Luxon used the classic National Party defence along the lines of saying “trust us, we know how to run the economy”.
The package would also be funded by huge cuts to public service budgets - $6b over four years - on top of the $4b announced this week by Finance Minister Grant Robertson and $4b identified in the May Budget.
Political editor Claire Trevett believes the policy is a vote winner and that people won’t bother too much about how it is funded and what cuts are made to public services; deputy editor Thomas Coughlan says National’s assumptions are “very optimistic”; and right-wing commentator Matthew Hooton calls the package a “cynical con”.
But whatever you make of the numbers, it was the most important week for Willis since she took over finance from Simon Bridges in March last year. And she acquitted herself well.
Labour had some good economic news this week and Robertson was fizzing about it in the House. On the heels of New Zealand keeping its AAA rating and stable outlook with Moody’s last month, Fitch affirmed New Zealand’s long-term foreign and local currency ratings at AA+ with a stable outlook, and the ANZ New Zealand Business Outlook report said business confidence was at its highest level since June 2021.
Meanwhile, I wrote a piece identifying some of the best and worst performances in the House this year, with the highest accolade going to Speaker Adrian Rurawhe. In it, I suggested that if National won the election on October 14 and Gerry Brownlee did not want to be Speaker, they could do worse than keeping Rurawhe in the job.
The respect for Rurawhe was echoed in the adjournment debate yesterday by most MPs who spoke. It has been a week of farewells at Parliament, with break-up functions being held over the complex throughout the week.
The polls at present suggest National will lead the next government and its MPs have been trying hard not to sound too smug about it.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Robertson gave stirring speeches yesterday to rally the troops and will no doubt do so again tomorrow at Labour’s campaign launch in Auckland.
“Whilst the saying goes that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes, Mr Peters is doing his level best to try and disprove the first of those. Chris Hipkins, of course, is trying to disprove the second” - Greens co-leader James Shaw in the adjournment debate.
Ayesha Verrall, the Health Minister, got so annoyed on Tuesday with National MP Matt Doocey’s questions on mental health spending that she forgot about the importance of saying what might happen instead of suggesting a National win was a certainty: “I don’t know why that member is interested in a sleight of hand of pretending it was intended for some other purpose, unless he’s buttering the public up for the cuts we know are coming under a National government.”
Goes to the talented and retiring Act MP James McDowall, who not only speaks fluent Cantonese, but read the parliamentary prayer this week in Ukrainian.
Top political stories
- Climate activists dramatically interrupted the last day of Parliament, unveiling full-length banners above MPs to protest a lack of action, particularly around agriculture.
- National has promised to make building materials cheaper, launching its construction policy just a day after two major reports highlighted huge challenges in the sector.
- An audit at Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand has found its corporate office included around 1100 contractors, consultants and other temporary workers as of December 2022 - six months after the new agency launched.
Stay with us at nzherald.co.nz for news updates and election campaign coverage. Look out for coverage over the weekend of Labour’s campaign launch on Saturday afternoon and National’s campaign launch on Sunday afternoon. The next court fixture for former Justice Minister Kiri Allan is set down for Monday.
Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s senior political correspondent. She was named Political Journalist of the Year at the Voyager Media Awards in 2023, 2020 and 2018.
For more political news and views, listen to On the Tiles, the Herald’s politics podcast.