Labour leader Chris Hipkins says all tax options are back on the policy table, indicating the party could be in for a major rethink of a wealth and/or capital gains tax ahead of the 2026 election.
Hipkins was reaffirmed as leader by the party’s caucus in a secret ballot on Tuesday, where he confirmed he wanted to lead them into the next election.
Carmel Sepuloni was voted in unanimously as deputy leader, after Kelvin Davis announced he would step down.
Davis later confirmed he had decided not to run in the 2026 election. He had previously indicated ahead of the election if he lost his electorate Te Tai Tokerau he would likely retire.
Hipkins meanwhile said Labour would have a “refreshed policy platform” going into the 2026 campaign.
He said he didn’t believe tax was the issue that defined the election result. He wouldn’t answer whether ruling out a wealth or capital gains tax was a mistake, repeating that Labour now started with a blank page.
“We need to take stock, we need to refresh. We start again with a blank page.”
He said there had been a brief conversation on tax at the meeting but nothing specific.
Hipkins said ahead of the election campaign that “under a Government I lead there will be no wealth or capital gains tax after the election”. Hipkins said on Tuesday said that that Government had ended and it was now after the election.
“Everything comes back onto the table and that includes a discussion around taxes. So in 2026, our tax policy could look quite different.”
Labour has a history of toying with a capital gains tax but then ruling it out under public pressure. In 2019, then-Prime Minister Dame Jacinda Ardern ruled out ever implementing one while in the role.
Hipkins said the first part of Labour’s Opposition was reflecting on what it did right and what it did wrong over its six years in government and the election. It will also involve “very vigorously” holding the next Government to account.
Labour’s whips have remained, Tangi Utikere and Camilla Belich. Hipkins said he would wait until after the Government had formed to select shadow positions.
Sepuloni said she had no aspiration to be the Labour leader.
She said Auckland was a problem for Labour, as evidenced by the election, so the party had to “think broadly” about why it fell short in the city.
Hipkins said they would wait to see the form of the next Government before deciding on their strategy, but added he hoped National leader Christopher Luxon would have the “good sense” to oppose Act’s policy to hold a referendum on the Treaty of Waitangi principles.
Hipkins said he accepted respectful conversations could be had on the matter, but he didn’t believe that would be achieved through the referendum.
Davis said the prospect of a referendum on the Treaty principles was why he wasn’t planning to retire straight away.
Willie Jackson said he was still considering his future, but that if such a referendum came about he would “stay around for as long as it takes to fight that and to stop that”.
“National say they don’t agree with a referendum, that doesn’t mean they won’t let a referendum happen,” Jackson said.
“I’m amongst people who will go to war against Seymour and his mates.”
Asked about using the term “war”, Jackson said he was simply relaying what he had been hearing.
“I’m just giving a warning from people saying to me, ‘That better not go through’.
“We don’t want it. I don’t want it. I don’t want to see unreasonable civil unrest. But we’re talking high stakes here.”
Davis said he thought Seymour needed to go to Māoridom first otherwise there was “potential for unrest”.
Davis said this would be his last term in Parliament.
“I became a grandfather in the last two weeks. So... you have other priorities. I just think I’ve run my course in politics and these three years will be my last.”
Davis won his seat on election night by just under 500 votes, but ended up losing after the special votes were counted by a similar margin to Te Pāti Māori’s Mariameno Kapa-Kingi. Davis had won Te Tai Tokerau in 2008, and then again in each election from 2014 until 2020.
“I could see the swing,” he said, not only in the seat but against Labour overall.
Like Jackson, he said he wanted to also stay on for a while to help rebuild the party’s caucus.
“We are still the largest Māori caucus... Willie and I, we know that we need to continue to build and help the party to become a strong opposition.”
Davis said he was also concerned about National and Act proposals to strip back Māori-focused initiatives, including dismantling organisations like Te Puni Kōkiri.
“I’m interested to see how Waitangi goes next year and if National attends.
“The last thing I want is for the dignity of the occasion, and the dignity of Ngāpuhi to be diminished.”