A tax haven or a haven for refugees?

By   /   July 2, 2016  /   8 Comments

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Why is it such a struggle for New Zealand to provide a safe haven to refugees in need yet we have to fight to clean up our tax haven laws? These two issues offer an insight into the values (or lack thereof) of John Key’s Government.

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Why is it such a struggle for New Zealand to provide a safe haven to refugees in need yet we have to fight to clean up our tax haven laws? These two issues offer an insight into the values (or lack thereof) of John Key’s Government.

Yesterday National finally acknowledged there are problems with our tax laws that need fixing. After years denying there was a problem. It took the release of the Panama Papers to reveal our tax loopholes looked, smelt and tasted like a tax haven – a sunny place to shady people. It was a surprise to many Kiwis who assumed our tax rules were written to promote fairness and transparency so people paid their share of tax. The revelations weren’t a surprise for the Government though who had been advised by the IRD in 2013 and 2014 our rules weren’t up to standard but some effective lobbying by the Government’s friends saw reform swept under the carpet. The Government was quite happy to see lawyers from the big end of town clip the ticket on foreign trusts anonymously hiding their money in New Zealand. National was happy to turn a blind eye and let dodgy entities use us as a tax haven when it benefitted their corporate lobbyist friends and pushed and pushed against constructive proposals to clean up our rules. Today, after the Shewan report they finally cracked, and agreed change was needed.

Benjamin Franklin once said only death and taxes are certain, but why did John Key defend an unethical tax system until it was futile and hesitate to act when refuges were dying as long as possible?

Meanwhile, in the midst of one the worst modern refugee crises National coldly stuck to the woefully small 750 refugees a year quota. Thousands were dying in the waters of the Mediterranean, and millions were displaced. Each of these people had a name and a story but John Key refused to raise our pitiful quota. Kiwis are noted for their hospitality and reaching out a helping hand to those in need and our multi-cultural modern nation reflects our historical openness. Our values clashed against the reality however that saw New Zealand’s refugee quota languishing at around 90th in the world. It took rallies, petitions, and people offering to put up refuges in their homes and too manty heart-breaking stories but eventually the quota was raised…by 250 a year.

On both issues Kiwi values ultimately prevailed but in spite of, not because of Government leadership. In both cases it took concerted action over months and a bit of luck in terms of the Panama Papers leak for the Government to actually do the right thing. The Government was willing to open its doors and say ‘Kia ora mate’ to foreign trusts but put up the ‘closed’ sign to refugees until the pressure finally forced them.

To me it says two things. Firstly this Government lacks an ethical compass. But any number of previous scandals and terrible decisions could have demonstrated this, Secondly and more importantly despite the ethical vacuum, our New Zealand values still eventually prevailed. We know everyone deserves a fair go, from the terrified refugee to the person who works hard for their family and pays their taxes. We won’t stand by and refuse to help the most vulnerable just as we won’t aid and assist the most powerful to get away with breaking laws and avoiding taxes.

You shouldn’t have to fight your elected representatives for the right thing to be eventually done. Skip that step and change the Government.

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About the author

I'm a dad and a Member of Parliament for the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. I can't add any more friends but subscribe to my feed to find out what I'm up to. Here is my website: www.greens.org.nz/people/garethhughes Authorised by Jon Field, Level 2, 17 Garrett Street, Wellington.

8 Comments

  1. Clare says:

    thanks Gareth, I’ll be doing my darnedest to get rid of this mean and nasty government

  2. slumbergod says:

    I’m always in the minority on this but WTF are we welcoming refugees when we can’t even look after our own first. My mother’s Housing NZ apartment block is about to get a refugee family. Their flat has been fully renovated and fitted with brand new furniture. Meanwhile, HNZ has never found the money to install heatpumps, insulation, or even replace the 40 year old drapes and carpets. Does anyone think the exisiting tenants are going to welcome the refugees? They are going to hate their experience because the other tenants include some pretty hardcore poor people.

    Kiwis first. Then when the problems are fixed, help others. (But my guess is there wouldn’t be any money for that).

  3. Andrew says:

    The current treatment of foreign trusts was enacted by a Labour government and twice reviewed by Labour governments: The Key government inherited it.

    As for refugees, I see Sweden and Finland are sending them back as fast as they can:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/29/germany-tightens-borders-as-finland-joins-sweden-in-deporting-refugees

    They’ve realized most of these people won’t fit in. They’re unemployable. They’re violent. Most will bring their own failed culture with them and just drag our enlightened western societies down.

    • “The Key government inherited it.”

      The Nats inherited three electricity SOEs. That didn’t stop the Tories from selling off half of all three assets.

      The Nats inherited 68,000 state houses in 2008. Since then, they’ve sold off 4,000 properties, and the number is now 64,000 (http://www.hnzc.co.nz/about-our-properties/).

      The Nats inherited a ban on live-sheep exports – and McCully has been covertly trying to circumvent the law since then. (And may end up being sacked for misleading Parliament, Cabinet, the New Zealand public, and f**k-knows who else.)

      The Nats inherited the gst rate of 12.5%; Key promised not to increase it; and then increased it to 15%.

      The Nats inherited Kiwisaver; promised not to “significantly” change it – and then changed it.

      Fact is, the Nats “inherited” various laws and policies from Labour, and have changed them when and where it suited them.

      So your statement, Andrew, is the sort of defensive finger-pointing we’ve come to expect from National Party sycophants.

      • Andrew says:

        Frank, stick to the topic of the post.

        The fact is, this whole trusts circus has gone nowhere other than to give Little Andy opportunity to shoot himself in the foot and get sued.

        • You raised the issue of the Nats “inheriting” things from Labour, Andrew. I merely pointed out a few other “inheritances” as well.

          I gather you have no answer to the point I made?

  4. Lois Griffiths says:

    Yes , we can and should accept more refugees. But the public of the West, including NZ, must do more than provide ambulances at the bottom of the cliff. Why are there so many people forced out of their homes? This needs to be discussed. Warfare, shock and awe bombing, drone attacks, have a lot to do with massive instability. NZ should cancel the planned military arms fair planned for later in the year, and instead, find a new international role.
    Wars, bombing..create refugees. Also climate change is going to make more people homeless. Whether or not they are refugees in the legal sense, they will still be homeless. NZ should show international leadership by turning away from military alliances and also by reducing our fossil fuel emissions. The world is very unstable , and signs are things will get worse.

  5. Helena says:

    Thank you Gareth.
    As a corporation New Zealand is set up to follow the dictates of the NWO. The latter is now dead or dying and those with money need hidey holes. Key and others agreed we’re that hole in the Pacific. Let’s offer key and cronies our forgiveness then throw them all in the hole and fill it in. Well, no, too much pollution for Mother Earth. Let’s just round them up and give them to SERCO to look after.
    Received this link this morning : Dunford has got the Republic of the United States of America up and running by releasing the new gold-backed Treasury Note. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEZ4YoRS_zo&feature=youtu.be
    Goodbye Cabal and goodbye The Club.



Authorised by Martyn Bradbury, The Editor, TheDailyBlog, 5 Victoria St East/Queen St, CBD, Auckland, New Zealand.