MMP politics is like a jigsaw puzzle, and Phil Goff revealed a few more pieces today, which he hopes will create a picture with Labour back on a Treasury benches. State of the nation? Nah, state of the coalition more like...
And so the dark lines of policy have started to be drawn around Labour's mid-term outines, that Phil Goff began releasing last year. Yes folks, it's election year and Opposition leader Phil Goff has decided to catch people's attention early with his state of the nation speech in Auckland this afternoon.
Goff has bounced off the good press from Ratana and got in ahead of the John Key's speech from the throne and Bill English's state of the economy speech, both of which we'll see next month.
In doing so, he's finally drawn the curtain on what the Phil Goff Labour party will look like and stand for. Following all the hints last year, there are no surprises in today's speech, just confirmation. But the policy list is his own and David Cunliffe's, no longer Helen Clark's and Michael Cullen's.
I've got to pick up my boy from daycare in a few minutes, so I hope you'll excuse me if I resort to bullet points from here on.
- The takeaway policy from the speech is what Goff has called a "tax free zone"; that is, we all pay no tax on the first $5000 we earn. In other words, ca-ching.
- The takeaway rhetoric is about price rises. Get used to those two words. Price rises is a drum Labour will beat loudly and repeatedly this year: GST, property prices, rent, petrol, and of course the ubiquitous block of cheese. Although it didn't make the speech, you can today add electricity prices to that list. Oh, and childcare. Childcare's going to be big in the next month or two. It's an ugly list for National to deal with. Of course, much of its not the government's fault, but who said politics was fair? Oh, and the other bit you're supposed to note: John Key lied about GST not going up, so he can't be trusted.
- The policy changes are all jigsaw pieces that reflect the reality of 21st century politics – that is, MMP and Australia.
- Australia first: The $5,000 tax free zone 'closes the gap' on Australia's $6,000 tax free zone. How can National reject that and yet still look determined to catch Australian wages by 2025? Labour is also promising a new top tax rate "comfortably" into six figures. That too mimics Australia's tax system. Again, National has talked long and hard about linking our rules and regulations with Australia's and Simon Power has had numerous meetings with his counterparts to that end. Labour's calling their bluff on this one.
- MMP: Guess which other party has a 'tax free zone' as core policy? Yep, the Maori Party. Hone's not kidding when he says the two parties need to talk more. Tariana Turia might not like it, but Labour's going to make it increasingly clear that it is the Maori Party's natural coalition partner.
- Goff, as politicians like to do, have created a fictional couple to spin his view of the world. His are called Matt and Lisa. They, of course, live in Auckland. He wants to tap into their frustration. And this is Labour's fear card this year: The Kiwi Dream Denied.
- Eat the rich. The top few percent of earners are the bad guys in Goff's picture of the world. Some will damn him for undermining aspiration and resorting to class warfare. But this is meant to be the Labour Party, right? Why criticise a fox for stealing eggs? It's what it does.
- Specifically, Labour is going after the rich with a new top tax rate and a tax avoidance hit squad. It's the least he can do. No, not for class warfare, but to pay for his tax free zone.
- Goff described his tax free zone thus: "It's simple. It's also fair." He might have added, "it's also expensive". Massively so.
- And he's bagging National on GST, he has notably – again – failed to wrestle with his own GST policy. Will you cut it or not, Mr Goff? If you've got a tax free zone to pay for, my guess is not a chance.
- In person, the villain of the piece is Mark, the property speculator. Boo! Hiss! He's stealing the Kiwi dream. He's behiiiind you! Yeah, it's clunky. But the crucial point in that bit of the speech is what's unsaid about the way Mark avoids paying tax on his housing windfall. Goff says only that "Mark is deliberately avoiding paying his fair share of tax but he still
expects everyone else to pay for his children to go to school and for
his family to use our hospitals.That’s not only unfair, it’s bad for our economy."
- What does that mean? Capital Gains Tax, of course. You can lock that one in now, it seems. The Greens will be happy.
- And Goff talks a lot about savings, which is music to Winston Peters' ears. If nothing else, this speech and policy platform positions Labour as a potential leader of a four party government. Which, of course, is the only hope in Hades that Labour has of being government by the end of the year.
- Back to Matt and Lisa... Labour has learnt a lesson. The speech implicitly concedes that Matt and Lisa supported National's tax cuts, even though Labour didn't. Hence Labour having to come up with a tax cut of its own.
- Fact check: Goff says the government is failing to grow the export sector. Not quite right there, actually. It is, however slowly.
- "The less you needed, the more you got". That's Labour language, and it's a good message for Goff because it's one he genuinely believes in.
- Goff also gets in a line about how economic future is green tech – or clean tech, depending on your terminology. Didn't I tell you?
- Goff makes a few promises of what Labour won't do... the sorts of things Labour parties sans Roger Douglas don't tend to do anyway. Most significantly: "Labour will not sell state-owned assets. National would.
If they got a second term, they would sell off the family silver - our
public assets like power companies - to pay for their debt.
- This represents the first attack this year on second-term National. The one that's extreme, the one that will sell state assets, the one that makes you think of Don Brash and Ruth Richardson, even Bill English, not that nice Mr Key. On this, much turns.
But I gotta dash. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the speech, which can be read here.