Brian Edwards Media

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:


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:

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.



  1. Given a choice between a Labour/Green government and not being sure exactly what they’ll do or a National government and seeing what they’ve done/haven’t done, I’d choose Labour/Green any day.

  2. Armstrong is another of yesterday’s men who don’t know when to leave the room.

    His irrelevance will be made complete come election day. All the old, stale, pale men – Roughan, Soper, Armstrong, Ralston – will have had their day once the new generation wins.

    And as for ageing woman, they are no better. I heard that old Tory rooster Boag screeching on the radio the other day jealously about how other young, fertile women were excited the new PM could still have babies – in that bitter envious tone that old, faded women use – as if that shouldn’t count as a reason to vote for Labour.

    They’ve had their chance, and they’ve left the country worse thn they found it.

    They can all shove off unlamented to the rest home.

    • Ageist, sexist and probably racist. Congratulations!

    • Sanctuary, you sort of remind me of Willie Jackson’s stance years ago, that Obama should be elected because he’s black. Apparently that’s a valid qualification for running a superpower, though the fact that Mike Tyson was a bit blacker didn’t seem to make him more worthy a President.

      Isn’t it ‘the best for the job’, or would you prefer New Zealand represented on the world stage by someone selected by the fact that they’re not white, not fat, not ‘too old’, not male, can still have babies, etc etc?

      Dear o’dear….. Please don’t wish for the country to be run by a pack of novices full of My Little Pony dreams that just can’t happen, who tell you what they’re going to give you but can’t explain how they’ll pay for it, and who’ll invest huge sums into schools and hospitals, but can’t show you the money….

      • 2.2.1

        You do love insults, don’t you?

        • Sorry John….can’t see any insults there. Just seems to me that the notion of selecting a government because it “must be their turn”, or by some obscure, random demographic, is totally absurd.

  3. Why would Jacinda support or introduce a tax system that disadvantages most New Zealanders. Her opinion is that the current tax system disadvantages most New Zealanders. Would you rather she lied like Key did with GST back in 2008. What she is asking for is a chance with the full resources of govt to fully explore various options around the current system and then put those options in a package and offer them to the electorate before the next election. What could be fairer than that.

    Hard to see what Jacinda is proposing is a helluva lot to ask especially given the mess this National govt has got the country in. Someone has to make a bold move to design a better system.

    • Sanctuary – I hope you’re still with this.

      Kat: How would you feel if, when you’re taxiing out for a flight to Melbourne, the First Officer gets on the intercom and says “We’re trying an experiment here. QANTAS has decided pilots cost too much and anyway, we haven’t got any good ones left because they all joined Air New Zealand last month, so we’re now letting the cabin crew take over. Jacinda here, has been with us for 4 years as a check-in girl. She’s great at that, so she’ll be your pilot today, and may all who fly with us be…..etc etc?


      • 3.1.1

        Or we could have a pilot who is already sitting at the controls and has tried to take off before and failed.

        • Well, of course, that’s a valid point. But there seems to me to be a wealth of experience behind the almost unsaleable English, admittedly not all of which is entirely desirable but it still amounts to experience, as opposed to the relatively untried but enthusiastic idealists on the other. Seems to me like the choice is either flu or pneumonia.

    • What can Labour do with the “full resources of government” that they couldn’t do over the last 9 years to get their thinking straight on taxation?
      They basically have access to the same information the government does. Besides, she’s so convinced that the superannuation age is fine as is that she’ll resign before she raises it that she must know something the rest of us don’t!

  4. I’m surprised that you think that there is something particularly admirable about John Armstrong’s political journalism Brian. I’ve always regarded him as just another Tory hack who has never had much of a good word for any other party than National. That would be consistent with the editorial policy of the Herald so I don’t put him down for that. Boosting National is what he does for a living and has done for many years. And although his use of language is a cut above most of his fellow op ed writers his style isn’t much to write home about either. But maybe my problem is that I spent some years living in London where they have real journalists and quality broadsheet newspapers. Here, even the mediocre stand out because the others are so bad

    • Armstrong’s bit on retirement age and the affordability of current state-funded pension entitlements where he asserts that Jacinda has gone AWOL on them is a classic example of his low quality opinionated utterances. He should stay retired.

    • Well my old colleague and friend, I tend to switch off when I get to terminology like ‘Tory hack’. Debate reduced to slogans and name-calling. And a bit of literary snobbery in there for good measure. Can we still be friends? I’d like that. And I’ve still got a pretty good stereo! Cheers.

      • Well,well.. He is my old colleague and friend too. Many decades ago, we were serving our administrative apprenticeships in the then avuncular public service in Christchurch. One morning, he and I were standing at a large table sorting out stacks of client files with cardboard cover sheets. I spotted two files randomly on the table next to each other, carrying large printed surnames of Boswell and Johnson. I thought this was hilarious and pointed it out to Tony.
        I then made a remark to him in my youthful arrogance that hey, there wouldn’t be many people working in this boring place that would get that anyway, would there? Hmm. For my sins, I received a five minute lecture and a lesson on the perils of intellectual and literary snobbery. One which I have never forgotten.
        But a few months later, my mentor was found being hoist with his own petard. He had been holding a lengthy interview with a client of our organization, whose financial and general affairs were in a right old tangle. Later, Tony wrote up some detailed file notes on the meeting. One of his comments noted that the particular gentleman had a “Micawberish attitude to life and his dealings in general”. A few days afterwards, one of our workmates was sitting at his desk in the large office, reading through the file.
        Suddenly, there was loud verbal explosion from his corner, including squawks and bellows about who wrote this stuff, who the hell was Micawber and how could any self-respecting public servant possibly be expected to know about this or what it meant… Etc, etc. The author was ribbed and teased about it for several days after, and never quite lived it down. And now it seems, many years later, he is still up to his old tricks. Thank you for the lecture, Brian..

  5. Ardern had a wonderful opportunity to steal the middle ground re extending the age of super entitlement for rich old farts and boldly introducing capital gains tax for the property players as Armstrong mentioned. In the face of heavy fire she wavered, acquiesced and lost a battle that one day someone must face. If you claim to represent generational change there was a once in a lifetime opportunity.When you claim to be a force for change the courage must accompany. I miss Armstrong”s analysis.

    • I would say at this juncture political influence rather than intelligent analysis is what Armstrong offers.

      Labour’s policy is to reverse Nationals short sighted policies and as an example resume contributions to the Cullen Fund. This will address the affordability of superannuation.

      The way the world is heading jobs are going to become more insecure and the future of work as we know it today is going to become less and less predictable. Isn’t it smart to allow older people to retire. Everyone needs to live in comfort and this is precisely why keeping the retirement age where it is is a good idea. Lets younger people into the work force as well.

      In short we don’t need to extend the retirement age, if anything we need to reduce it. We need more productivity, less waste and less pollution. We need a smarter economy. New Zealand has a grand opportunity to be a leader in the world in these areas.

      • Kat: It’s smart to allow businesses to flourish, no matter how old the management is. Quote: Henry Ford, and a million others. Stop imagining that youth means smart. It does in the few cases like Apple, Google, FaceBook et al, but you’re talking 10 companies, worldwide.

        The current state of computing technology, air travel, flash cars, incredible phone technology, gaming, and all manner of things didn’t seriously exist 60 years ago, so todays old folk had to invent them. Today’s teens have contributed nothing.

  6. Well I agree with you Brian
    I notice when it comes to tax rises it is always some “other” who will be hit.
    And to the lefties, just what would you have said if National said
    ” We are going to make tax fairer ( sock it to you suckers) but we don’t know the details, we will let you know later!”

  7. Adern is a Socialist by self admission with all that entails.
    She entered this campaign with a relentlessly negative campaign of increased taxation on practically anything you could imagine.
    Yes,something about children whose parents whose income is less than 60% of the median income.
    But no positive economic development or serious interest in the welfare of all New Zealanders, rather a social class war against farmers and people who have assets.

    • The funny thing is, a capital gains tax only effects the rich… and given that you would have a few years warning of it being implemented, it won’t actually mean you are financially worse off… But it WILL mean all those people who have got rich by exploiting the property market will have to find somewhere else to invest their spare funds. Lets face it, John Key identified housing was in crisis back in 2007 and spent the next 9 years not doing anything about it. Do you really believe anything will change with another 3 years of National? The rich get richer & inequality grows…

      As for positive economic development, building roads, roads, roads and having unsustainable immigration may appear as development but it is bleeding this country dry.

      As for a war on farmers you are just repeating Nationals fake news attack ads and it does not reflect well on you. Anyone who create pollution SHOULD BE HELD TO ACCOUNT FOR IT, that is some farmers but not all just as it is some industry but not all…

      • If Thomas actually got into the country, rather than just spouting about it, he would see in places like Marlborough and Hakes Bay, many of the vineyards have irrigation systems and they are big water users. The same go for orchards and market gardens. Now what pollution do they cause?
        If we are going to tax polluters for waterway contamination, why are Auckland’s beaches unswimmable for much of the time, but no tax proposal there. There is heavy pollution in the Waiwhetu, Heathcote, or Leith.
        But getting back to Brian’s headline post. I think he has laid out his argument well. People might not agree with it, that is their prerogative, but ad hom attacks show the weakness of their arguments.

  8. Good column Brian – I’m astonished at Labour’s lack of preparation on the dtails of their proposed new tax regime, or are they simply being disingenuous? The water tax is particularly disturbing. It will make the Foreshore and Seabed issue pale into insignificance. It unfairly targets farmers who produce most of our food and our exports. Market gardens use irrigation intensively so expect the price of staples to increase considerably – how does that help those on the bottom rung? It’s an ill-considered, divisive policy that smacks of commissars sticking it to the kulaks. Will they requisition the grain harvest next?

  9. Option 1 Say that you will do something and get into power and change your mind(remember John key put up GST and gave only the wealthy a tax break)
    Option 2 Dont bother to tell a pack of lies and change things .At least they cant say youve broken a promise.
    Option 3 leave any changes until you have time to let the dust settle and let the electorate decide on it .
    Remember landlords quickly moved into blackmail mode promising to increase rent as soon as any tax increases were signalled.
    Option 3 I thought this was a smart move and leaves the Nats with 1 less item to attack.Although the 11 billion dollar hole still seems to be popular amongst Bill English and Steven Joyce.

  10. Are you referring to Ryan Air?- How would you feel if, when you’re taxiing out for a flight to Melbourne, the First Officer gets on the intercom and says “We’re trying an experiment here. QANTAS has decided pilots cost too much and anyway, we haven’t got any good ones left because they all joined Air New Zealand last month, so we’re now letting the cabin crew take over.

  11. I’m not sure that an airplane analogy is good at the moment, espeially if you live in Auckland.

    For just $1.9 million per year this Government could have guaranteed continuity of supply of jet fuel. But clearly spending $22 million on a flag referendum has left us broke. Such competence should be rewarded with another three years in government.

  12. Ross
    I don’t know where you got your costs for fuel security from but they seem orders of magnitude out. A new pipeline would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take 10 years to get through RMA. It would also have to take a similar route to the current. They could have expanded the tank farm, but that is also RMA. On a philosophical issue, the pipeline is owned by a private company, the tank farm as well and the airport a massive company. Why should the government tell them how to run their businesses or carry their risks.
    But getting back to the headline post, what is Labour’s solution to the punctured pipeline problem? They haven’t got one! But it seems they will form a committee to investigate it. And Jacinda looked very concerned.

    • “the pipeline is owned by a private company,”

      There you go, just what we need eh.

      The neolib experiment has had its day.