It's a big day of transitioning for Labour, as it clears the decks for it's 'small targets' strategy. But one particular new policy caught my eye
After many months of silence or evasion brought on by the need to regroup, lick wounds and do some policy work, Labour's had a busy old policy day today. It's been out with the old and in with some new.
It's been well sign-posted that Labour would take a capital gains tax and raising the super age out of its manifesto, but I didn't expect such a clear and concise position on CGT. Andrew Little told The Nation:
Well, we won't introduce it in our first term, and we won't introduce any change that significant to the tax system, any material change to the tax system, without going to the people first and getting a mandate to do so.
So Andrew Little's conviction that the policy is unpopular (despite polls to the contrary) and costing votes has seen the policy shelved. Though to be fair, as one commentator told me today, pollsters have found that about 2/3 of people support a CGT, but that drops to a third when they're told it's Labour's policy. I've no proof that's correct, but it rings true.
The sad thing is, I'd bet the conviction of most Labour MPs is in favour of a CGT; this is just a tactic to wipe away anything National can whack them with. All the party is doing is taking it out of the shop window and hiding it behind the counter. It looks to be part of a 'small target' strategy, whereby Labour will head to 2017 focused on a very few key policies that it thinks are winning ones.
Key did the same thing prior to 2008; except in some cases (WFF opposition, nuclear-free) he jettisoned the policies altogether. Little is, as I say, just taking them out of the shop window; although there's always a chance they could tinkered with so as to be sold in some other form. (EG National's opposition to student loans was ditched, but they've chipped away at the policy by tightening here and there).
It's sensible, probably inevitable, political strategy to try to make the change as an incumbent rather than from Opposition. Why make the hill even harder to climb, right? Yet for all that, it's also cowardly. New Zealand needs a capital gains tax (or something very similar) if it wants to get serious about wealth inequality,
As Max Rashbrooke writes in his new book 'Wealth and New Zealand', overseas data suggests the wealthiest 10 percent in New Zealand (who own 53% of NZ's wealth) do very well from no CGT:
"In the US, millionaires take home more than 60% of all capital gains. In Australia, people earning over A$150,000 get nearly half of all capital gains..."
It's one of the most redistributive taxes around and if Labour isn't proudly for redistribution, what it is for?
In the same dumping today, David Parker's NZ Power policy and his "one big tool" (a variable savings rate to influence monetary policy) have both effectively been shown the door. So it's a decent clean out.
Coming in, Labour has picked up on growing public fears about sugar and have said it will give industry a timetable to reduce the sugar content in certain foods, or it will intervene. So no sugar tax, but action all the same.
Grant Robertson has also repeated his interest in "flexicurity", and extending the curriculum to teaching coding, citizenship and driving in schools.
But it was one other, seemingly firmer policy announcement, that almost slipped me by, but stood out as more definitive than the rest. Check out this:
We want to see careers advice professionalised. We want to see students, teachers, parents and employers involved in getting a plan for every single student at secondary school about what they will do after school.
That's quite something. Professionalising careers advice would be significant, but more dramatically, he wants (NB not "is looking at" but "wants") a careers plan for every secondary student about to leave school. That'd be something of an undertaking.
Tomorrow, it's Little's turn on jobs. If it wasn't for its torturous position on the TPP, you'd say Labour was having a good weekend.