Sir Michael is being paid well while he takes his tax report for a spin

So  how  is  the  debate   on  a   comprehensive  capital  gains tax  going?

Not   well,  some would  say,  particularly  if  you have to pay  more than a  $1000 a  day  for  a   PR   snow job.

Questioned  in  Parliament   why  the  government  is  paying  Sir  Michael  Cullen more than $1000 a day of taxpayer funds to engage in political debate for four months after the Tax Working Group has been disbanded, including two months after the government will have announced its own position,  Finance  Minister  Grant Robertson explained the contract had been extended “because it’s necessary to respond to all of the misrepresentation and lies about the report”.

 Radio  NZ    reported Sir Michael has been doing media interviews defending the report against what he described as a “rather hysterical, destroy-New-Zealand-way-of-life reaction”.

Sir Michael, who chaired the working group which was established in December 2017,   has  been  paid  about  $1000 a  day  on  what Robertson  says  is a  “pro rata”  basis.

The minister  believes the arrangement is appropriate because Sir Michael is still being called on to explain the group’s findings.

“We’re having an ongoing debate about the issues raised in the report, it’s important that he’s in position as chair of the working group to articulate what’s in it.”

 Radio  NZ  also   reported that Sir Michael is assuring taxpayers he expects to invoice for no more than two days this month for his fee of $1000 for a six-hour day.

Whew.  How generous.

But maybe he is anxious to avoid becoming a rich prick.

In comparison, Victoria University emeritus professor Bob Buckle, who chaired the 2010 Tax Working Group set up by the then-National government, did the job for free.

He did not receive a cent for his work – either for the hours he put in analysing the tax system or for the time spent explaining the group’s report after it was released.

Does  anyone get  the  feeling the  ministers  who  commissioned  the   Tax  Working Group  report  aren’t  keen   on talking about   it themselves?

Originally  they   said    they were  establishing  the  Tax  Working Group  to   find    ways  to  make the  tax  system  “fairer”.    That  may sound  felicitous  to  all  those  New  Zealanders  who   pay  little  or  no  income tax.

But hardworking and fully taxed  Kiwis  go  really  sour on  politicians  who  think  up new taxes – as  PM Jacinda Ardern and her  team  are  finding  out.   There  have been   reports  of panic   on the  ninth  floor  as  the  backlash  hits home. 

And no  doubt   internal  polling is reflecting  the mood  of  voters.

Leaving  Sir Michael  to defend  his  report,   ministers  are instead  insisting “absolutely no decisions have been made on any of the recommendations put forward by the Tax Working Group”.

 Revenue Minister  Stuart  Nash  told Parliament this  week:

We are listening to all sectors. We are carefully considering all the options, and we will make recommendations in good time”.

Just to make the  point clear

We’re listening to feedback from right across the community, and we’re carefully considering all options.

 And a   third time:

At this point, I’m not consulting with small business on a capital gains tax, because there is no proposal out there to implement a capital gains tax”.

 Given   this  is  to be the  year  of  “delivery”,  as  Prime  Minister  Jacinda  Ardern  put it  in January,  Nash  for one  seems  in  no  hurry  to  get to grips  with the introduction of  a  capital gains tax.   Perhaps  he senses  how  the voters of Napier  would  react?




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