Omnishambles

THE COALITION Government resembles a headless chicken in its handling – or more correctly mishandling – of the recommendations of Sir Michael Cullen’s Tax Working Group (TWG).

Its line “we are ruling nothing in or nothing out” of the TWG’s recommendations is causing undue and unnecessary angst in agriculture and wider business circles. The proposals have rightly caused great concern, unease and confusion in the farming sector.

The TWG’s recommendations that would impact specifically on the rural sector – note that three of its members did not agree with these – include introducing a capital gains tax (CGT) on the sale of farms, an animal emissions tax, water tax, fertiliser tax and consideration of an environmental footprint tax and a natural capital tax.

National’s agriculture spokesman Nathan Guy claims that “with all these taxes combined a typical dairy farm could be paying up to $68,000 annually in new taxes if irrigated, or $25,000 without irrigation. And and average sheep and beef farm could be taxed $20,000 per year”.

These are scary numbers. But we can’t verify Guy’s claims because the Government’s response has been thus far zilch, zero, zippo! Except for the aforementioned: “we are ruling nothing in or nothing out” line.

The Government’s handling of the TWG recommendations has been inept, irresponsible and irrational, and ridiculous considering it had the report for three week before it was made public. The coalition partners could at least have agreed on what to rule out from the publicly announced TWG recommendations, rather than keep us waiting until “sometime in April” before making their final decision.

We know the Greens have always wanted more taxes including a CGT so no surprises there. But where is NZ First? The so-called provincial champions have been missing in action.

Winston Peters, by refusing to comment, is biding his time, trying to milk all possible political capital and publicity out of the uncertainty. The NZ First list MP Mark Patterson continues his truly unremarkable track record – since entering Parliament on Peters’ coat tails in 2017 – of being totally invisible on the subject.

And the self-proclaimed ‘first citizen’ of the regions, Shane Jones, is too busy preening himself and scanning his thesaurus for more unintelligible, smarmy prose instead of allaying concern over the TWG recommendations.

Labour’s TWG omnishamabolic response has prompted the PM to claim that her after-school job at a fish and chip shop has educated her in running a small business, the Finance Minister has been deliberately non-committal and the Agriculture Minister has voiced his support for CGT on farms – just as he favoured a water tax before the election. What a mess.

The Government’s answer is to roll out yesterday’s man Sir Michael Cullen – at $1000 per day care of the taxpayer – for another four months to front its CGT campaign. If Cullen, the man who once proudly told Parliament he enjoyed ripping off farmers,  is the Government’s solution to all this, it must be a truly stupid problem.

It is time now – not sometime in April— for the coalition Government to act like a government and tell us which of the TWG’s proposals it is considering and which it is not so we can have a reasoned, informed and serious debate on the pros and cons of each.