Friday, 15 September 2017

Has Jacinda Been Thinking? It Appears Not.

The Jacinda Tidal Wave Has Gone Out

Richard Prebble
NZ Herald  

This article first appeared in the NZ Herald on the 14th September.  Ironically, later in the day, Jacinda Ardern capitulated, and reverted to Labour's tax position as it was before Ardern took over the leadership of the Labour Party.   
The author's comments below on the command-and-control aspects of Labour's economic policies, and the apparition of Communist economics that they resemble remain an accurate description of Labour's position.  Ed.

What has happened to the Jacinda tidal wave? Jacinda who started the wave is the person who stopped it.

Labour's policy under Andrew Little was to have a tax review. Labour would take any recommendations to the voters at the next election. Kelvin Davies set out the policy on TV only to be publicly slapped down by Jacinda.  In a "captain's call" Jacinda changed the tax policy to say that a Labour victory was a mandate for Labour to introduce any new tax and at any rate that a nameless committee of "tax experts" recommended, just the family home is off limits.

Any tax? What about land tax? Yes. Tax on the family bach and boat? Yes. Water? Petrol? Nothing is off the table. Will the capital gains tax be 33 per cent? Maybe. The petrol tax 10 cents a litre? Probably. Water tax. Guess a figure. "Trust us" says Jacinda.

No party has ever asked for so much power.  It is too much power for any government to have.  What was Jacinda thinking?

Elections are a head rush. Inexperienced candidates get campaign-itis and fall for their own propaganda. They think they cannot lose. They overreach.  In this year's British election an inexperienced leader, Teresa May, thought she could not lose. She added old Tory polices like fox hunting to her manifesto. She lost an unlosable election.

The left of the Labour Party wants to redistribute. Capital gains taxes is top of their wish list.  Before changing Labour's tax policy Jacinda should have read the Bauer Media poll that says nearly half of us (49 per cent) believe the economy will do better under National. Just 29 per cent of voters think the economy will be better with Jacinda. In every campaign "It's the economy, stupid" as President Clinton observed.

As a Labour strategist what do you do when adults think your leader cannot add? On TV each night you put Jacinda in front of schoolchildren who will not ask hard questions and cannot even vote.

Labour's strategy is to get the half a million young people who did not vote last election to enrol and vote this election. The strategy may yet work. When you are 18 and living at home and Labour is promising you free stuff what do you care about a capital gains tax?

The commentators who are in the tank for Labour will be baffled by these polls. The decline in the Green and New Zealand First vote is explainable. The New Zealand electorate has no tolerance for politicians who help themselves to taxpayer money.  Incidentally it seems the Maori Party is ahead in two Maori seats.  This might be important.

Didn't five economists say Labour's fiscal plan adds up? Hasn't Steven Joyce been discredited?

The economists and Joyce are both right. If you accept Labour's assumptions, then Labour's fiscal plan adds up. Among the assumptions is the claim a Labour Government will do no other new spending. All Governments have to undertake unexpected spending. A spectacular example was the Christchurch earthquake.

The big assumption is the economy will do as well under Labour as National. Who believes seven new taxes will have no effect? Can we declare war on agriculture, tourism and the international student sector and still grow the economy?

Tax and spend always, and I mean always, leads to bust. Steven Joyce's $11.7 billion hole in Labour's budget is conservative.

None of the economists were asked if they had examined Labour's industrial relations policy. I was curious as to what the promised "fair pay agreements" are so I googled Labour's manifesto. They are neither fair nor an agreement.  The Employment Relations Authority with "assistance from unions and employers" will issue decrees setting wages and conditions of work for a sector of the economy. So the authority can order the pay and conditions for say the transport industry or construction or retail.

Economists have a technical term for command economies, it is called communism. Central government fixing wages and conditions has never worked.

The rest of the industrial policy is a trade union wish list. Trade unions being able to force employers into multi-employer, multi-union agreements, no matter no employee wants to be in the union agreement. It is a recipe for strikes and industrial chaos.

I was so scared I early voted. For the first time in my life I voted National. Not my party vote, National is going to need a coalition partner.

• Richard Prebble is a former leader of Act.

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