How the Greens’ wealth tax proposal could be a political lifeline for Winston Peters and his party

The  Green Party’s  major new election  policy  for  a  wealth  tax has, not  unexpectedly,  had a mixed  reception, not   least  from  politicians of  other parties.

The  policy  to  tax the  wealthy  to  fund a payment of at least  $325 a week   for anyone  not  in  full-time  work,  predictably brought  cheers  from  trade  unions  and  child  poverty  lobby groups.  But it provoked scorn  from  the  other side of the  fence,  where  the  idea undermines  the  core  principle  of  capitalism as  the  driver of  economic  growth.

Interestingly,  one  sample of   public opinion  on the issue   showed   85%  against—and   only 15% in favour.

But  that lopsided  result has its  upside for  the Greens   and brings a  glow to those  within  the Green Party  who worked  up  the policy.  It  could  guarantee    the  Green   Party  is  not   overwhelmed    by  the halo effect  at  present  enveloping   Prime Minister    Jacinda  Ardern,   which  could result  in  the  kind of election landslide  delivering an outright majority  in Parliament for Labour.

If it  lifted the Green  Party’s  current  ratings  of  around 6-7%  to  double-digit levels   it  would be a  major  victory.  

The  Greens   say  their policy  will only hit the  wealthiest 6%  of  New Zealanders,  but   contend   it  will raise  $8bn  a year   (are they  dreaming?).

Ardern  was  quick to  distance  Labour  from  its  junior partner’s idea,  saying that  it included   some “fairly  heroic assumptions”.

She  insists  Labour’s  policy  will  “look very  different”.

As  for   NZ  First,  Winston Peters  blasted   it   as  “nuts”.  And  he   quoted  his patron  saint:

As Churchill once said ‘for  a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the  handle’”.

Tim  Murphy, on  Newsroom,  reads  more into  the   Greens’  policy move. He interprets  it  as a “cunning  plan”  aimed  at  securing  the  Greens sufficient party votes from  this policy plank to give them room to prod Labour towards a welfare-tax-income support policy that might emulate the circuit-breaking First Labour Government of the 1930s.

Newstalk ZB political  editor Barry Soper   has  a different   view.

It’s too easy to dismiss the Greens’ Poverty Action Plan as a flight of fantasy – pie in the sky stuff that’ll never happen.  But think again.  Making policy like they’re planning takes power. And while the Greens may not have it at the moment, it could be a very different story after September 19. 

“The power in this government lies with the Winston Peters’ handbrake party, NZ First, the only party in the formal coalition.  The Greens’ opinion poll rating has been pretty consistent – above the 5% – whereas Labour’s coalition cobbers are struggling at 2 to 3%.”

Soper  concludes the chances are that after September 19, the Greens could well be where NZ First was after the last election and able to make demands – such as moving tax rates for those earning over a hundred grand to 37%, and those on $150,000 having 42% of their income going into the government’s pocket.

Does anyone think Labour would fight against tax increases?”.

And then  there  is this  possibility:  many   voters,  besides  those   who   already  qualify  to be “wealthy”  in  the   Greens definition,  might  be  so  worried  at  the prospect  of the  new tax kicking in as  their income prospects  flourish, that they regard Winston  Peters’   opposition  to it  as  the  key  to how  they should cast  their ballots.

He’s  the man    who  needs to  be  back in  Parliament  to  kill  it  off.   The  wealthy,  and those  who hope  to be wealthy,   might  decide  NZ  First  has to  be  back in  Parliament  to  ensure  the tax  never reaches the  statute  book.

The Greens  – in  effect –  have thrown  NZ  First  a  political  lifeline  if  a  significant  slice  of would-be National  voters  decide  the  safest  play in the current electoral  circumstances is to  put   “handbrake  Harry”  (Winston Peters)  back into  Parliament.

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