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Kate Hawkesby: Wealth tax chat is a fishing expedition for govt

Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Tue, 3 May 2022, 7:14AM
Photo / Getty Images

Kate Hawkesby: Wealth tax chat is a fishing expedition for govt

Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Tue, 3 May 2022, 7:14AM

So do we have a big backflip from the PM coming? The Heralds Political Editor Claire Trevett reminded us all yesterday of Ardern’s words regarding a wealth tax during the 2020 election campaign, remember that? It seems not even the PM recalled what she'd said, given she’s now saying something different.  

So back in 2020, as Claire reminds us, Ardern not only ruled out a wealth tax - but said she would not allow it to happen while she was PM. Not on her watch, not happening. She was definitive.  

Fast forward to yesterday morning when she was asked again - is a wealth tax coming? Well now, now she’s not so sure.  

But by yesterday afternoon when asked again, she was back to, "not this term."

So does that mean we can expect a wealth tax as part of the 2023 campaign?

She certainly didn’t rule it out. She said Labour was “yet to form its tax policy for 2023” which sounds a lot like fudging the answer.

But at the moment, on top of David Parker snooping into the IRD info on what taxes the country’s wealthiest are paying, he's also proposed a new Tax Principles Act. In other words, he is looking at how tax policies are assessed and whether that could be changed. The Government says it wants to know if it’s “fair.”

They’re talking up the fairness aspect of it a lot. 

And here’s what I find ironic about that, how fair is it to be definitive on something during an election campaign when it suits you, and then backflip when it doesn’t? And it’s not even that there’s an obvious backflip and something tangible we can hang our hat on. This is just a dodging of a question that suddenly doesn't suit them anymore.

It’s potentially a fishing expedition on two fronts. One, suss what the wealthy are indeed paying in tax, that’s the obvious up front part of this sham, but two, suss the reaction. What is the public making of this conversation? How’s it playing out? What are the focus groups saying? They’ll be gauging it, just as they'll be courting the Greens, who they'll have figured out by now they're going to need next year if they want to be in government again. 

All of this though takes us back to the same place, which is the disingenuousness of all this. Rule something out, and then don't rule it out. Strong leadership is actually about clear decisive communication and goal posts that don't shift.

When you start shifting the goalposts, but at the same time pretending you’re not shifting them at all, you’re just creating mistrust. And you’re deluding yourself that people will be so bamboozled by your smoke and mirrors that they won't question it. 

That’s not living up to your promised mantra, which was to be the most open honest and transparent government ever. I would have thought by now, especially given what’s happening in the polls, that the Labour party would be a tad more savvy with people, and a tad less waffly.

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