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Going, Going, Nearly Gone!

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OK, what we have now is a sale! You might call it a bargain basement sale. Or a reverse auction maybe where the price of the goods goes down with every bid. Let’s join the bidding.

‘Item 2017 on your programme, ladies and gentlemen, Running The Country. Can I get a starting bid of a zillion dollars? Gentleman with the blue tie. Thank you sir. Any retreat from a zillion dollars? Lady in the red dress. 500 million. Thank you madam. Any retreat from 500 million? Young man in the green jersey. A lifetime supply of mung beans. Thank you young man. Elderly gent with the dead cat. Five bucks. My goodness! Thank you sir. That’s going to be hard to beat. Dapper Gentleman smoking the cigarette. What’s that sir? Minus anything any of the others bid. And a partridge in a pear tree. But you’re willing to share Running The Country for the next 3 years with any of the previous bidders. Any further retreats? No? Final chance, ladies and gentlemen? Going, Going! Gone! That concludes the auction, ladies and gentlemen. If the gentleman smoking the cigarette will join me and the other bidders in a dimly lit back room, negotiations can begin.’

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Labour’s New Tax Plan: A Helluva Lot to Ask

I’m a huge fan of Herald political commentator John Armstrong. His writing is superb, his analysis invariably astute and his objectivity beyond question. The proof of this is that he pleases and offends Right, Left and Centre in equal measure.

So I was surprised by his column this morning which is an unqualified assault on Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that she will not release Labour’s tax policy until after the 2017 election.

This morning’s column headline left little doubt of what was to come:

“HOW JACINDA’S CUNNING PLAN FELL APART”

And the subhead removed any doubt of what was to come:

“‘Let’s not do that’ becomes Labour’s motto as tax nips the party’s ankles.”

Armstrong begins:

“Like the sands through the hourglass – it has taken just four short weeks for Jacinda Ardern’s ‘campaign of our lives’ to become more akin to The Days of our Lives.

“Labour’s Wonder Woman has found herself cast in a long running soap opera – but not as a super hero.”

Read it here:

 http://nzh.tw/11922858

Well, in short, I think Armstrong is absolutely right. Given the relevance of taxation policy, directly or indirectly, to the lives of every man, woman and child in this country, it is simply outrageous to say, “Not telling! Not even a hint! You’ll just have to trust us till after the election. Long after!”

Well of course you could read their current policy. And that would be fine if the Leader of the Opposition could guarantee that it won’t change between now and the 2020 election. But she can’t/won’t do that either.

So here’s what this boils down to.

Jacinda wants you to make her Prime Minister of New Zealand this year. I’m assuming that she has some opinion in her head of our current tax system, whether it benefits or disadvantages most New Zealanders. For the answer to that question she refers us to Labour’s current tax policy which she says will not change without a mandate from New Zealanders at the next election in 2020. She’s saying, ‘Give me almost three years in office as Prime Minister before I even disclose my ideal tax regime. In the meantime here’s a taste.

Seems to me that’s a helluva lot to ask.

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Semantics Perhaps, but Important

In a dodgy piece of journalism in yesterday’s Sunday Star Times, entitled ‘The cynical art of the cheap apology’, Jonathan Milne castigated Finance Minister Steven Joyce for his most recent defence of his claimed $11.7 billion ‘fiscal hole’ in Labour’s campaign promises.

Milne wrote: ‘Challenged to explain his discredited calculations, Joyce took the art of the cheap apology to a new low. “Well I’m sorry,” he said, “but… they’re accurate.”‘

‘And with that, New Zealand’s finance minister devalued the word “sorry” further than he or his predecessors have ever taken the New Zealand dollar.’

Now here’s the problem: when Joyce responds ‘Well I’m sorry… but they’re accurate,’ to the accusations about there being a fiscal hole in his calculations, he isn’t apologising for the calculations, he’s simply being polite. His apology is for disagreeing with the questioner or commentator.

We all do it:

‘Well I’m sorry, I don’t care what it cost, I really don’t like that hat.’

‘Well I’m sorry, you can argue till the cows come home, but I still think Edwards is an idiot.’

‘Well I’m sorry, if that’s art, I’m a Dutchman!’

In every case the ‘sorry’ indicates an apology for disagreeing with someone else’s position. It’s not a mea culpa.

Challenged to defend his calculations, Joyce’s ‘Well I’m sorry’ wasn’t an apology for those calculations, but a common way of prefacing disagreement with something said.

It scarcely deserved the headline: ‘The cynical art of the cheap apology’.

Semantics perhaps, but important.

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