Don’t Walk Away, Chippy – Labour Can Beat National On Tax.


THE QUESTION upon which the forthcoming election will turn is: “How brave is Chris Hipkins?” If saving his government requires Hipkins to strike out boldly, with policies designed to seriously disrupt the status quo, does he have the cojones to do it?

There is nothing in his political career which suggests that he has what it takes to shake things up. He has succeeded by playing the percentages. Trimming his sails when he had to. Betting the farm when he was handed a sure thing. And it has worked. He is New Zealand’s prime minister. Not by dint of hard-won policy achievements, but by being a political cork. Chippy has floated to the top.

An important aspect of this political buoyancy has been his indifference to how well, or how badly, his policies are performing. Minister of Education for five years, he did not appear to care whether the measures he authorised were actually working. Having implemented party policy, he never looked back.

His pet project, Te Pukenga, was persisted with long after it became obvious that the forced amalgamation of the country’s polytechnics was a very bad (and eye-wateringly expensive) idea. Evidence that New Zealand was tumbling down the international education league tables, and that the nation’s children were struggling to master the 3Rs, or even turn up to class, failed to produce a serious reappraisal of the Education Ministry’s performance.

Chippy’s choice, when things go wrong, is to keep on walking. It’s a remarkably effective tactic. Don’t hang around, don’t look back, just put as much distance between yourself and whatever is failing as you possibly can. Guilt and proximity go hand-in-hand. Ergo – don’t be found near the scene of the crime.

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The problem with being the Prime Minister, however, is that there is nowhere to walk away to. Hipkins’ office is the destination for everything that has, is, or will go wrong in New Zealand society. It’s the place where all the chickens of political failure come home to roost – even when, strictly-speaking – they’re not Chippy’s chickens.

With every passing week, New Zealanders are greeted with more evidence of just what an easy-osey administration Jacinda Ardern superintended. Stuart Nash, Michael Wood, Kiri Allan: how many more ministers and MPs will the news media find cowering under the rug with their fingers crossed? One can’t help wondering whether Ardern, herself, took a leaf out of Chippy’s playbook. Certainly, being able to say “Jacinda has left the building” has its upside – not least for Jacinda!

Being a magnet for every piece of bad news going is why Prime Ministers cannot afford to just sit still and hope for the best. A do-nothing government is a doomed government. Nor is it enough to simply throw unpopular government policies overboard – not when the person doing the throwing had a significant role in formulating and implementing the very same policies! No, if Hipkins truly wants his government to survive October’s electoral winnowing, then he has to do something.

In practical terms, Hipkins needs to announce new policies. Policies that provide the voters with a convincing reason for keeping Labour in office.

Like what?

Given that the 2023 General Election will be held in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, and that Hipkins’ opponents are proposing to relieve the burden of constantly rising prices by lessening the voters’ tax burden, it would seem that fiscal policy is the battlefield upon which Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori must take the fight to National and Act.

Hipkins’ and Labour’s most obvious first move, tax wise, is to adjust the tax thresholds to offset the impact of rising inflation, thereby eliminating “fiscal drag”. At a stroke, National’s flagship policy would be neutralised. Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis would (with some justification) claim credit, but they would still be left gasping for political air.

Hipkins’ and Labour’s next step would be to address the Greens’ fiscal policies. Citing the extreme practical (not to say political) difficulties entailed in extracting significant revenue from the richest individuals and families on the Rich List, Finance Minister Grant Robertson would rule-out introducing a Wealth Tax. To soften that blow, however, he would signal Labour’s adoption of the Greens’ policy of making the first $10,000 of personal income tax-free.

On a roll, Robertson would then announce the re-instatement of the policy Labour took to the electorate in 2011: the removal of GST from basic food items. This measure would offer immediate cost-of-living relief to New Zealand’s poorest citizens.

Naturally, National’s finance spokesperson, Willis, and the Act leader, David Seymour, would demand to know how Labour proposed to fill the revenue hole created by such significant reductions in the overall tax-take. What spending plans were Labour planning to curtail and/or eliminate in order to pay for them?

One can easily imagine Hipkins asking Robertson the same question when Labour’s campaign team were war-gaming the party’s radical fiscal strategy. Recalling John Key’s killer line from the 2011 General Election, one can hear the Prime Minister commanding his Finance Minister to: “Show me the money!”

This is the point at which Hipkins would be required to step out of his political comfort zone and embrace a policy that would shake New Zealand’s neoliberal order to its very foundations. The same point Jim Anderton’s Alliance arrived at back in the 1990s when it, too, was tasked with filling the fiscal hole created by its even more generous tax policies.

And, no, the answer is not a Capital Gains Tax (CGT). Upon the foundation of tax-free capital gain, New Zealanders have constructed a politically sacrosanct economic model. It’s what keeps the small business-person working all the hours God sends. It’s what underpins the financial security of home-owners in their old age. Capital gain is the pot-of-gold at the end of the Kiwi rainbow – and governments will tax it at the peril of their political lives.

The answer Anderton and his Alliance came up with, the fiscal instrument adopted to fill a gaping fiscal void that would otherwise have to be filled by cuts in government spending so savage that publicly funded health and education could hardly survive them, was the Financial Transactions Tax (FTT).

The FTT is a levy on legislatively designated types of financial transactions. Infinitesimal in itself, when multiplied by the millions of financial transactions which take place every day an FTT soon mounts up to serious money. What’s more, the institutions from which FTTs tend to reap the most spectacular revenue harvests – the banks and finance houses – seldom elicit much in the way of sympathy from the ordinary voter. On the contrary, most voters are of the view that “they had it coming”.

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a proposal more likely to inspire fear and loathing at the big end of town that an FTT. Those big-enders will tell you that an FTT would crash the markets, derange the banking system, provoke capital flight, and utterly fail to achieve the objectives of its promoters. Many of the bankers’ objections are rehearsed in an excellent video on the FTT (a.k.a the “Robin Hood Bank Tax”) fronted by the incomparable Bill Nighy. Watch it here.

This, then, is the challenge confronting Hipkins. To embrace a suite of policies that offer genuine cost-of-living relief to the overwhelming majority of New Zealand taxpayers, while, at the same time, stripping National and Act of their principal election sweetener, and throwing into the sharpest relief the difference between tax policies designed to assist the rich, and tax policies intended to uplift the poor.

Not an election strategy for the faint-hearted, it would call upon all the political skills this government and its allies possess. If successful, however, it would, at long last, allow the New Zealand Left to shatter the bonds of neoliberalism and break free into open ground.

Don’t walk away from this one, Chippy.


  1. To add to the best metaphor in a long time. Chippy the political cork, if he is at sea, can only drift at the mercy of the vagaries of wind and tide and scientists will tell you as he crests one wave and slides down to the next he is actually traveling in circles.

  2. Chris – You are right, but Labour will not…because they will not/cannot think, and act against their large scale donors

    • Right, it seems almost impossible that the donors would allow an F.T.T. They’d prefer that the G.S.T. be increased, and for other taxes to be cut further.

      Sir Keir Starmer’s pledges so far could be indicative of the upcoming platform for Chippy’s equally Clintonite party: the focus is mostly on crime, and appearing ‘tougher than the Tories’; with the rest mainly being promises around outsourcing N.H.S. functions to private hospitals, new wind farms and workplace training. And more money for Ukraine, of course.

      Anybody who watched R.F.K. Jr’s Town Hall on NewsNation last night could be forgiven for concluding that the Clintonites must inhabit a totally different universe to the rest of us.

    • I support using taxes to allow more workers and those on low incomes to keep more of their own money. Let’s do this Chippy.

      It will be a redistribution of wealth with the aim to make life easier for those on low incomes. Whether it will be as effective as growing the economy and targeting benefits in achieving distribution of wealth is up for debate.

      The story about killing the goose that lays “golden eggs” comes to mind.

      “FTT” sounds so great that one has to question why this not been implemented. But then again, FTT is not new and has been with us for hundreds of years in one form or another. There are pros and cons. The arguments in favour of and against are well argued by economists, yet there is little consensus.

      One thing is for sure, we may well be conned again at this election.

    • Look even Grant Robertson in the pic looks very worried about what the Chippie might say next.

    • Sorry Nathan your post is a fallacy. It’s National and ACT that have the large scale donors, fact. Just ask Paula Benefit. Imagine what will need to be ceded should that unholy conglomerate get in.

    • No. That will only have people having to fill in form after form and be made to prove themselves worthy of a pension.

      • No. It will sort out those who don’t need a state pension because they can support themselves. And that’s fine by me! Means tastings is imperative so that money goes to the right people! Otherwise, hey, we would all be entitled to free dinner at the City Mission.

        • imagine cabbage haus…you pay all your life into your private pension only to be told your not getting it because your savings are considered too high and you own property…HAPPY? thought not

        • Means testing will mean that people will miss out on the pension because they dont meet criteria. They will probably have to sell everything they own to get it. Far better just to tax the shit out of the rich pricks.

      • I agree with you on this occasion. I am not one of the rich pricks you dislike but I worked long and hard hours which rewarded me with money and a lot of satisfaction. Why should I be denied my pension because I have more money than someone who has lived the easy life on drink and drugs and not working.

    • Superannuation deals with a trade deficit, terrible savings and an unaffordable aged care system you Gronks.

  3. Ok, Labour is in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, one that is largely self-inflicted by the trillion dollar wealth transfer and what do these geniuses do? They add 30 cents per litre tax to fuel. They shit all over the working man. Their Mt Albert friends in subsidised Tesla’s on the other hand, are laughing all the way to their northern summer holidays in Portugal! Bravo!

    Next, one has to have faith that Labour are capable of the three things good policy has, A, well thought out, B, analysis of all the consequences of that policy and C, once formulated, actually deliver it. Very little I have seen in this government suggests they can deliver or think strategically beyond mere politicing. Most things they have done backfire and do more damage, all off the back of weak idealistic thinking.

    A good analogy of Hipkins though, a cork bobbing about without the ability to guide its future. The trouble is, he is a politician only and can’t produce, never has, so all he capable of is to sell. His tenure as a minister was poor, his picks for ministers as a PM even worse and his inability to control his party to ditch the policies that will sink Labour, a terminal failure.

    Based on Labour’s record, 2017-2023, there is nothing that can convince me they should retain power. They just simply do not know what they are doing. And I voted for them, every time!

    • Wages and benefits increased more than at any time in the past 30 years. Health, education and welfare are firmly in the public sector. Prescriptions will be free tomorrow. Profit is no longer the perogative of health or public transport,.

  4. Never forgetting of course that Cullen was the one who indexed tax thresholds in Budget 2008 and which was then immediately scrapped by Joky Hen when National won the election later that year. So in essence, reinstating indexation is simply something Labour had done previously and now that National has seem the benefit of it, we hope that National won’t scrap it if they’re in government again.

  5. Too late. This is such an irredeemably corrupt government it has to GO! No patching or tweaking can compensate for a deliberate policy from the outset to conceal its true intentions, and manipulate the citizens.

    • Agreed. The fact it will not even face up to its utter failure wrt to pandemic policy is incredible to me. The US and UK are already holding Congressional/Parliamentary hearings where the key orchestrators of the covid debacle are held to account. Chippie, as the Health Minister at the time, has a lot to answer for!

      • The Chippie has a great deal to answer for everything he’s touched has failed.
        Health, Education,Covid and now Prime Ministership.
        This shows he’s out of his depth,not up to the task.

      • Yes much too late you are correct Nicholastwig.
        Concealing the truth from the voters is unforgivable?

  6. Offhand, I cannot think of a single Labour policy in the last six years that has benefitted the country: Most have done great harm.

    So, I’m not holding my breath waiting for these clowns to come up with a genuinely good idea at this late stage. The best Chippy can do is throw Ardern under the bus, disavow all the crap that came before and set out a policy platform that is somewhere near to where Helen Clark was.

    • Beyond their capability as I have repeatedly pointed out.
      Andrew this Labour Government are dangerous due simply to their inability to do even simple things.

  7. I’m not sure tax will get them over the line. I know there’s a group that hanker to ‘tax those rich bastards’ but I also think there’s many who look at how this govt has spent their tax dollars and think, ‘giving these bastards more will mean they’ll just keep blowing more’

    Just this week $640,000,000 they can’t find in their PGF and a billion extra on Three (or is it Ten) Waters…all in one week! Who’d trust them with even more money?

    I think there’s also punters thinking ‘well if we give them more they’ll just find more and more creative ways of blowing it on rubbish, they’ve shown that they can’t be trusted with what they have, why give them more?’

    I get sick of wasteful govt spending. Jacinda and Grant laughing at blowing $50 million on a cycle bridge that was never going anywhere is what they’ll be known for.

  8. Sounds great.

    Would actually make me happy with the left winning. Wealth tax is utter bonkers. Robertson’s comments on inflation tax bracket adjustment so far have also been bonkers.

    To me I am leaning right. Why? Because both the Nats and Labour are utterly incompetent, and the Greens are worse. But at least with the right after all is said and done, my tax brackets will be adjusted for inflation, and thank goodness for that. It is bonkers that minimum wage full time workers are facing a marginal tax rate of 30 cents on the dollar.

  9. Yeah. And if Chippie was hip to this he’d give middle New Zealand one more chance to switch from floating to fixed rate mortgages. Not sure how but surely he could bullshit up something.

      • Thanks for that missed out “have.”
        You have thought highlighted my assertion and for that I also thank you.
        My name in your title(less the grossness) is also flattering.
        Thanks bob.

        • Your stalkers seem to be growing in number exponentially Bob. I wonder if one day any of them could stop making themselves look like utter dumbarses and address your message rather than just post pointless and often just plainly stupid insults.

  10. well there is the Wealth tax, the Capital Gains tax, and maybe a Kiwi Saver tax.
    Whom to tax, when you have got no industry of value left, the tourist aint’ coming because they too have no money?
    Like GST a nice new tax that will never or only seldom need to be increased as they are a tax on the value of the purchase or service. Oh my the grift that keeps on giving, curtesy of those that can’t offset these taxes at expenses or who do not earn their keep thanks to tax payers funded 6 figures salary.
    Lets milk the worker, until the cow is dead.

  11. Great Post @ C.T. At least in my opinion.
    Chris Hipkins could also…
    Initiate a royal commission of inquiry into how, exactly, 14 Kiwi-As individuals can now call themselves multi-billionaires and 3118 Kiwi-As individuals can now call themselves multi-millionaires with net wealth in excess of $50 million each in a country with a population of 5.2 million and who’s primary economy is in chasing shitting cows and shitting sheep to fleece them then carve them up after we suck them dry in readiness for exporting?
    Lets look at the now four foreign owned banks? How? How, are they? How did [they] manoeuvre themselves into such a controlling thus profitable missionary-position over us? How come very, very average houses can be priced to sell for millions under the ominous shadows of four foreign owned bank-Vampires who’s mantra will be as telling as Mike Hoskings’ quote from the film ‘Wall Street’ which was. ” Greed is Good” .
    AO/NZ’s economy is corrupt on a scale not seen anywhere nor ever before. It will be revealed that in corruption we’re world leaders.
    Please refer to Trademe re a small house in a state housing area of Auckland. The rateable value ( RV) is reportedly $950,000.00. The ONLY beneficiaries of that absurd RV figure will be the banks. The likely, foreign owned banks, and enabled by a corrupt, neo-liberal Greed is Good mentality.
    Once we claw our way out of the miasma of rogers mate’s lies and deceptions that still be-devil us in OUR paradise we’ll all die of fucking shock at the scope of it all.

    • I think Gecko was wrong, and that greed is not so good. Greedy landlords who have borrowed too much are finding this out, with (non deductible) interest rates rising, and house prices falling.

  12. Apparently tax has gone up 54% in the last five years but nothing to show for it – in fact a lot is getting worse with woke on the job.

    Bruce Cotterill: Government needs to cut its costs – and here’s my plan to do it

    I wonder where the money is going?

    Three Waters cost blowout expected to hit $1 billion in ‘mega-bureaucracy’

    The 40m polytech deficit is now needing $422.6 million for the merger that was apparently needed to save the 40m…. must be the millennial NZ Maths syllabus in action???????

    Health, Transport, Housing, jails, justice, Education, the list goes on with insane amounts of money being wasted to apparently ‘save money’ or do some ideological woke idea, that is not working and clearly not working.

    • So you want to impose USA style health care. No insurance, you die. I suppose it’s one way of getting rid of those smelly brown people you despise.

      • Millsy, Get help with your comprehension because you seem to have some bizarre interpretations of people’s posts.

          • “Bob the first July 3, 2023 at 9:21 am
            Where is it?
            Don’t as Chippy he doesn’t know.”

            Yes millsy, Bob and grammar are in direct conflict.

    • The Polytech merger was needed because we need COLLABORATION in our tertiary sector. Compeition was destroying it.

      • Well Chippy finished that one! It’s fucked now….100s of millions later. Nice one PM Chippy.

        • At least we are going to get a decent polytech system out of it, not a bunch of diploma mills that only want to educate international students, and just tell domestic students to get stuffed.

          • No other major country merged all their technical colleges into one giant college, just as nobody would merge every university into one giant college either. It makes no sense.

            Unless you want to turn them into a big corporation, and sell them off to the highest bidder, that is.

            • Or unless you want communist style control over thoughts and deeds and the “science” they produce.

            • They do this in the USA all the time. Every single state has thier unversities and colleges as part of collective network, ie University of California, etc.

          • How are we getting a decent polytech out of it?

            The new system is just another line of top heavy management over the top and even more dysfunctional and costing about 100 times more than when they started.

            But at least the grifter bureaucrats have been making a killing!

            Woke Rules!

            Who cares about the students, government and student debt and skill levels?

            Keep fucking up!!

            Very profitable!!

            Pretend it’s not happening.

          • Well I have to say Chippie well and truly nailed the coffin on the polytechnics,indeed the entire education sector.
            Along the way,to be consistent with Labour policy,he spilt a few billion that should have been better spent.

      • It came out in a Treasury Report and as you’d expect the opposition jumped on it, as they are paid far too highly to do.

  13. After all the list of failings you have mentioned why would you even want them back into govt. Walking away might be Hopkins’ strategy but that’s nothing to gloat over.

  14. Good suggestions Chris.
    I d almost consider voting for them. But their crazy ideologies and their attempt to curb free speech puts me off

    • Yeah, because you are a nasty person who would rip away the social safety net so you can say the N-word online.

      Fuck your free speech. Having free speech doesnt benefit anyone except racists, bigots, homophobes, transphobes, and other assorted right wingers. Free speech never got me high wages, welfare, health care, education or anything like that. All it got was intolerance.

      • Hitchen’s friend Martyn Amis supported your view on a utube I saw recently. ‘Freedom’ is just shit to divide the people for the benefit of the fascist plutocrats. Democracies produce freedom like flowers in Spring.

  15. Genius. You know the short-term like a birth-mark, medium-term nearly similarly, and long-term — can’t win at elections. 1234 punches.

    Got a letter (!) from Labour trying to sell me on them on the basis of their silly budget.

    I hope the right-wing kid can do something for reality. It sometimes happens.

    Boy, how the media has clamped down on the Greens’ manifesto for the neediest — I can hardly remember it.

  16. “The answer Anderton and his Alliance came up with, the fiscal instrument adopted to fill a gaping fiscal void that would otherwise have to be filled by cuts in government spending so savage that publicly funded health and education could hardly survive them, was the Financial Transactions Tax (FTT).”
    – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    I don’t like CGT or FTT or estate duties. Tax revenue could be increased by better instituting current taxes, and better taxing multinationals who move profits to lower tax jurisdictions.
    For example, many items bought online are currently GST free. Online trading sites like NZ based Trademe, don’t have GST applied to most of their sales. Why not ask sites like Trademe, to automatically apply GST on ALL sales, along with their fee.
    Not something the seller has to do, but is done by the trading site. This regime could extend to overseas trading sites like Ebay, by getting them to also apply GST to NZ sales, at risk of being blocked from NZ, if they don’t agree. How much extra revenue would this raise, and how quickly could it be implemented, and would it be enough to cover removing GST on basic food items?

  17. To save New Zealand from further catastrophe don’t vote Labour, this much is obvious to all.

  18. Or, Chippy could take a leaf out of ACT’s book and abolish the useless demographic ministries. What essential services derive from the billions poured into those ministries? We could save a lot of taxpayers’ money that would be better spent on education and health.

  19. Rather prophetic, and a good chance now Anderton’s idea is the only way ahead not off the table. I think I’d bet on it, but ABC Hipkins’s short-termness is depthless.

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