Tales From A Possible Future: Expanding The Tax Working Group


THE FIRST SIGN that Jacinda Ardern’s would be a very different sort of Labour Government came early.

On the subject of the much-ballyhooed “Tax Working Group”, the near universal assumption had been that it would be comprised almost entirely of the Treasury’s “usual suspects”. The pundits were equally certain that the Group’s terms-of-reference would be exceedingly narrow and its findings untroublingly predictable. A technocratic solution to a political problem born of Labour’s chronic ideological muddle. So far, so conventional.

Quite what the Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, thought when Jacinda responded to his short list of reliable experts by presenting him with a much longer list of her own making, he has, so far, kept to himself. Those present in the room all agree that he looked shocked. His definition of a “working group”, and the Prime Minister’s, were clearly a long way apart.

Rather than simply gathering half-a-dozen senior accountants, bank economists and professors of economics, the Prime Minister’s list brought together a much larger, and more representative, group of New Zealanders. Using the “Water Forum” (created by the former National Government to come up with a consensual solution to the vexed question of how to manage New Zealand’s water resources) as her model, Jacinda had nominated groups and individuals with a proven interest in fashioning an equitable taxation system. Business groups and trade unions, churches and charities, academics and activists; the Prime Minister’s Working Group would be tasked with presenting her and the Finance Minister with a set of recommendations based on the broadest possible societal consensus.

The scuttlebutt doing the rounds of the Press Gallery has Robertson objecting in the most direct fashion that the Prime Minister’s version of the Working Group had not been presented to the electorate before the election and represented a radical departure from their expectations about its composition and scope. “What’s more,” he is said to have added acidly, “neither myself nor Treasury have been appraised of your intentions on this matter.”

The Prime Minister’s response was to reassure him that the expanded Working Group she was proposing couldn’t possibly proceed without the endorsement of the Finance Minister. Her Revenue Minister, David Parker, had been adamant on that score.

“But surely you see, Grant,”, the Prime Minister is said to have continued, “a tiny group of experts primed to deliver what have already been pretty clearly signalled as the new government’s tax policy objectives, will be met with entirely justified public scepticism. By radically expanding the Working Group’s membership, and giving them the broadest possible terms-of-reference, we can generate an unprecedented level of public interest and engagement in the project. Instead of a cynical exercise in bog-level perception management, the inquiry I’m proposing will become a full-scale and exciting exercise in participatory democracy. People will know that our ‘Let’s do this’ tagline is something more than just another of those election slogans that last for the duration of the campaign and then get thrown away.”

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Robertson warned Jacinda that if she persisted with her plan, her Government would be torn apart by the media for attempting to turn New Zealand into the South Pacific’s very own version of Venezuela.

“Are you really telling me,” the Prime Minister responded, “that the only experts acceptable to our friends in the media are those who haven’t the slightest idea what it’s like to live on the minimum wage, or exist on a benefit? That they simply will not concede that there is more than one type of expertise when it comes to the effect of taxation on ordinary people’s lives? Surely, you’re not suggesting, Grant, that our government’s room-for-manoeuvre politically extends no further than the prejudices of New Zealand’s most reactionary journalists?”

Robertson then demanded to know whether the Greens and NZ First had been involved in the formulation of the policy she was putting forward.

“I have discussed the possibility of using National’s “Water Forum” as the model for our Tax Working Group, yes. And I have to tell you, Grant, that both James and Winston are enthusiastic. Like me, they see this as an excellent way of showing the electorate that their new government is a very different proposition from any of its predecessors. That, when it comes to economic and social policy, this government is determined to take the people with it. That the days of a dangerously isolated, neoliberal political class telling voters what’s good for them are over.”

Robertson is said to have remained silent for what seemed, to all those present, a very long time. Then, signalling his acceptance of his long-time friend and ally’s proposal with a wry grin, he is supposed to have said: “You’re not by any chance hiding a trio of dragons on the Beehive’s Ninth Floor, are you, Jacinda?”


  1. Robertson is clearly out of tune with Kiwis.

    In my discussion with him “not scaring the horses ” aka keeping onside with Transnationals, he sees as a survival tactic.

    This neolibeal approach will do nothing to change our direction but will just take away opprotunity for change and give further Business As Usual green light to TNC taking over more of NZ and widening the gap with increased poverty.

    NZ has been dispossessed by planed and strategic sell offs and take overs since douglas was installed to set in motion a stripping out of Kiwi equity in Aotearoa.

    Grant seems to comply with this fundamentally.

    If he claims that he doesn’t then his actions do not show this. He is very compliant with neoliberal policies.

    Jacinda gives a hint of change away from that and the people are craving for that change.

    Most of NACT sell offs are in TNC hands.

    Treasury is staffed with many who are leading the charge into deeper neoliberal water.

    Why the hell would you put our future in their hands Grant.

    The ghost of Kerr remains.

    • All to often we hear quip after quotes with out any substance in an effort to assure ones political career. Not once have I heard any say “if you mess around with the public I will destroy you and open up an inquiry into public private hipocracy.” And that most be owned on the 9th floor of the beehive. Because to create other leaders you first must know what you want to build, and how to staff it.

      Shortly before the Americas cup. Sir Russell Coutts was appointed Commodore of The Mainly Sailing Club. So if parents can get there son or daughter into that club. The network of friends in this club will advance each other’s careers. As an avid follower of all kiwi sports I’v watched progress of this sailing club move quickly from just a hobby to hosting the 2019 O’pen Bic World Championships.

      We have to adapt and change to the changing times of the situation. When settlers first started teaching children they taught them to be store keepers and labourers and other subordinate staff to the settler commercial houses. Not much has changed over the years and today we have decile ratings and an extraordinary bright bunch of students that lack the diversity of culture. Because of the reputation of a school and how graduate students perform, how good the teachers are, and how dedicated the school is to excellence depends how much interest there is.

      If any one takes the education system for granted then you are in-titled to be there and get a free ride. The tax payer pays for the benefit of the top elite students who also embellish the settler system which they expose on us. And when you graduate you know that your credentials and years in that school will increase or decrease the chances of reaching higher education. That is the current system all children must go to and it’s very difficult as will any beneficiary tell you.

      Some how or another we must fund all schools equally. And we must develop a culture where if your son or daughter achieves higher honours in life. Then they can find a place with in New Zealand and over sea the next generation that fills the the achievement gaps with in society. And and we must develop a culture where if your son or daughter makes it into that club, then they owe that club an obligation. So to the child that graduates. And it is up to them to fund it, and improve upon it and there by outlast the status of student. I support those who give generously to there local clubs. I am a fortunate product of extra curricular activities. I support those who come after me and uphold the fine traditions of FairPlay not only in there school lives but in what ever endeavours they subsequently find themselves pursuing.

    • 100% ,very counter productive .
      First and foremost, getting rid of National is a top priority before Labour self destructs with fanciful fictional infighting.
      Come on Chris with shits around like Mathew Hooten the right doesn’t need additional assistance from bored left wing commentators.

    • If Jacinda really said that the days of neo-liberalism are over, I’ll vote Labour. If she didn’t say that I’m really dont see the point of the article.

    • Dougal;

      The technique is used by many authors that want to present a perspective/reality that otherwise may not be PC or a threat to a Gvt’s machinations/security.

      Eg; Dr Steve Pieczenik,MD,PhD co-authored the Tom Clancy book series about
      spies and intrigue when in fact he was working in that field with various Gvt’s.

      His major was psychological warfare and credited with his role in bringing down
      the Soviet Union (USSR) in the 90’s.


      On the otherhand; By putting a vision out there, is there a possibility of it becoming a reality?



  2. electing a Labour led govt. would indeed be just the beginning…

    “Capital flight”, “markets in free fall”, “dollar crashes”, will be the headlines, so the people need to be actively involved and organised to support all measures that dent or turn back the neo liberal consensus

    Unions in particular need to keep the pressure on for the right to strike and national minimum agreements, the Clark Labour govt got let off the hook once the Alliance had imploded

  3. Wow. Just wow. And trust me, I’d rather say ‘fuck’ than ‘wow’.
    Having said that…
    Here’s the thing that’d concern me though.
    That the demonic cadre of soulless swine that made off with our assets and cash during the roast pig in the paddling pool full of starving piranha greed frenzy of the 1980’s – 90’s will get clean away.
    They sold our belongings for their profits and created an on going societal nightmare for thousands of otherwise normal, healthy, happy Kiwi’s. They MUST NOT be allowed to slip away with our money without an inquiry, many inquiries actually, just because Adern starts coming up with, frankly obvious albeit good ideas.
    For example, I want to see roger douglas not only stripped of his ( its ) knighthood but to do jail time for treason also.
    Fuck the argument that neo liberalism seemed like a good idea at the time. The “Oh Dear, never mind. Moving on… I will just keep your money however” bullshit. The term ‘Neo liberalism’ is a logical fallacy term for swindling, let’s be clear on that.
    Telecom gibb, the fancy F-Art-bot sporting s-wank in a paddock, and the mainfreight ‘ Where’s our freight and public rail transport infrastructure, fucker?’ mogul should be writhing in the tangle of their 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets ( Unlike that old Maori woman I walked past while she settled down on cardboard boxes underneath her filthy dacron sleeping bag while in the shadow of the alien anal probe that is the Sky Tower and Casino.)

    Both major contributors to TOP campaign funds according to RNZ six o’clock news last night.
    NZ’s a beautiful big country with vast riches and a tiny population steeped in wank.

    • 100%

      It constantly amazes how we , as a people, have accepted these shitheads who did this to us without a whimper , without lynch mobs in the streets.

      We hear all the trotted out excuses about retrospective justice being ‘ too hard’ , … that ‘ times have changed’ , ‘ we made a mistake’ and on and on and on… and what do we get ?

      Wimps like Guyon Espiner conducting hazy , misty camera shot interviews with grey haired old elders with an ‘ everyone’s grandparents ‘ type of setting , – painting a picture of wise elder statesmen and women and relying on sentimental nostalgia to soften the blatant criminality of these treasonous shitters!

      Like hell !!!

      Those scumsucking bastards stole our wealth , consigned thousands to lose their jobs, their houses, their businesses , set the conditions for thousands more children to die in cold damp houses in future years, sold off state housing and created a housing crisis so family’s now sleep in bloody cars , thousands died because of inadequate hospitals and long waiting lists , closed down tax payer paid for industry’s that employed tens of thousands, lied to us there would be lower prices for basic commodities because there would be more ‘competition, then proceeded to asset strip those SOE’s they bought for a song , made redundant many more thousands , and then proceeded to hike up prices so now family’s cant even afford to fucking heat their damn houses, – end result ? – even more bloody children developing third world diseases such as pneumonia and bronchiostasis. And on and on and on with countless other examples of their crap over 33 years of neo liberal treason.

      You know what this country reminds me of now , COUNTRYBOY ?!!?

      It reminds me of the same sort of slack shit attitude of places like Cambodia years after the killing fields.

      Or after the Bosnian war.

      Or even Japan and Germany after WW2.


      Because the same evil disgusting officious shit for brains that caused so much psychopathic and sadistic harm were still allowed to walk free years , – decades, – after they did what they did to thousands,- millions of innocent victims!!!

      About the only ones who didn’t let the sick fuckers get away with it were the Italians when they no qualms dishing out fast rough justice to Mussolini and his wife and retainers.

      Now while I wouldn’t go that far , – 25 year prison sentences would suffice. They could spend their remaining ‘ golden years’ rotting inside a prison cell, – AFTER they had been asset stripped and forced to pay for their upkeep in prison out of their own finances.

      And AFTER they were forced to denounce neo liberalism publicly .

      You know we don’t support NAZISM in this country , – for good reasons. And one of the reasons is because we saw and can read historical facts of the more overt and disgusting things they did.

      But looking at the obvious is easy , – things like viewing piles of emaciated corpses and gas chambers in Auschwitz – anyone , even a child , …can do that and understand.

      It takes a little bit more effort to engage your brains and do a little bit of research and HUNT OUT the original ones BEHIND it all and understand its FOUNDATIONS , how that legacy still exists today , – and how it has been alive and well in NZ for the last three decades.

      So here’s a hint :

      1) Mont Pelerin Society. And their local branch ,…

      2) Business Roundtable ( now calling themselves the ‘ New Zealand
      Initiative ‘)

      And please bear in mind , – BOTH Roger Douglas AND Ruth Richardson were Board of Directors of the London based Mont Pelerin Society.

      Mont Pelerin Society Directory – DeSmogBlog

      Hon. Sir Roger Douglas
      1998, Life Member

      Mr. Roger L. Kerr
      New Zealand Business Roundtable

      Honorable Ruth Richardson
      Ruth Richardson [NZ] Ltd

      And to understand how all this fits together?

      READ THIS :

      New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?

      Then you will understand what and who I mean by NAZISM in New Zealand.

  4. Good logic Chris;

    You have dedicated to this study between national & labour construct of advisory forums water or tax.

    I cant stop being somewhat concerned that somewhere along the way some of those former rouges of 2006-8 wriggle into the tax forum also to spread their usual ‘free market” policies that sound good to a youthful Labour administration, but still will sow the seeds of another “Emron” event meltdown.

    After all self interest always does this in the end, and many inside the NZ Treasury advisory panel were actually in the last Global Economic Crash from Goldman Sachs and we believe are now also on boards of our SOE’s also such as ‘Paula Rebstock’ who is inside Kiwirail board as deputybchair now!!!!

    Other Nats’ operatives are inside other SOE’s similarly.

    We need to purge the National Party planted ‘operatives’ out of the system before we construct a new tax system.

    • The political appointments inside our “State” corporations are there for a reason and it not to help Kiwis get back their assets.

      Quite to the contrary they will and are facilitating a step by step set of events to TINA full privatisation.

      Remember Kerr in Treasury did not see the state having any business running health.
      Health is a target for further privatisation which is happening in part by contracting out services and the sinking lid in funding Health.
      Normalising private health is current with increasing numbers forced to pay privately after a lifetime of taxation building a public health system.

      Local councils have found that they have been conned into launching CCOs, now the power to reverse that has been taken away from them. Turning back to the efficiencies of local body function without private “contacts” creaming off profit is fraught with extreme difficulty.

      The push for amalgamation of councils is another step towards loss of local control and further privatisation of services. The pattern is plainly observable.

      The behind closed doors associations of those in public office can and do pose a conflict of interest for state corporations and other public institutions. Govt need to weed out these plants an discard any who have worked against public interest.

      Not this present Govt of course as they too are not there for public good.

  5. Thanks for this Chris. This is where we remind ourselves that Labour is still the far-right of the left (economically at least), and that getting the NatACTs out of government is only the first milestone in a much larger hikoi. After the election, there will be a lot of work to do, holding Labour and its coalition partners to their moderate election promises, and building public support for more radical moves to replace corporate-dominated technocracy with community-driven deep democracy. I think there are areas (eg drug law reform) where we can get real changes under a Labour-Greens government that aren’t possible under National, but they’re not just going to happen, we have to keep pushing for them as engaged citizens.

    • Did you as an engaged citizen hold National and its coalition partners to account? did Chris? “Labour is still the far-right of the left” the current Labour party and its policy platform shows you are wrong.

      • Think of the economy 20 years ago. Metiria managed to change the narrative from punitive justice to restorative justice. That she can put on her resume.

        Policy is a technical that allows identification of entry points. But you have to be right by a certain time frame. The RMA covers allot of the reforms Jacinda wants to push, land use, water, resource extraction/intensification, a lot of which are in a neoliberal fire sale at present. It took about 20 years to get the RMA reforms over the line. So assuming neoliberal policy has failed then the average to reform it is 20 years. And that is assuming nothing goes tits up like a huge shock to the economy. So the target is 20 years, if nothing goes to pear-shaped and there is a transition to new leadership. Then we will be right.

        And none of this stuff cares if we are right or wrong today. Come sept23 the work will only just be starting.

    • … ” After the election, there will be a lot of work to do, holding Labour and its coalition partners to their moderate election promises, and building public support for more radical moves to replace corporate-dominated technocracy with community-driven deep democracy ” …

      The latter part of that paragraph, – ” replace corporate-dominated technocracy with community-driven deep democracy ” – caught my attention the most.

      This is 100% correct.

  6. There are a lot of people who contribute to TDB both blogers and commentators , who clearly understand and care how our country is run. And it’s Not how it’s been run for the last 30+ years, and not how it’s likely to be run under any prospective near future government; Our hopes for Jacinda notwithstanding.
    Why isn’t there a political movement that represents us unequivocally? There’s enough consensus surely to do something constructive. Are we all just too comfortable to want to act?
    D J S

  7. Can’t think of actual policies that show Labour genuinely moving to the left, so we use fanfiction. Terrific. Are you going to have Winston and Gareth Morgan declare their forbidden love for eachother next?

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