The Minister of Finance’s tax promise has not been broken (really?) if nobody but him promised it, the PM is saying

Let’s see.  The government is denying it has broken a promise with the housing package it announced today while the Corrections Minister is apologising for the bad treatment of women – some say it was torture – in the prisons for which he is responsible while his colleague, Nanaia Mahuta, is rebuking China for its human rights performance. In other announcements,

  • The Government has extended support to the aviation sector until the end of October to help keep the country connected with its trade partners and maintain international passenger services;
  • Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson paid tribute to Annie Aranui, describing her as “a servant to the people” whose “selfless dedication to Tairāwhiti and the Hawke’s Bay community will be sorely missed”;
  • Arts and Culture Minister posted a speech she delivered at an NZ Opera  performance of  Ihitai ‘Avei’a – Star Navigator, which explores Pacific navigation and the coming together of Polynesian and European peoples.

The big news of the day was the Government’s housing package to support first-home buyers.

Four ministers – the PM, the Minister of of Housing, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Revenue – were involved in the unveiling of:

  • A $3.8 billion fund to accelerate housing supply in the short to medium term
  • The enabling of more Kiwis to access First Home Grants and Loans with increased income caps and higher house price caps in targeted areas
  • A doubling of the bright-line test to 10 years with an exemption to incentivise new builds
  • The removal of an interest deductibility loophole for future investors and phasing out on existing residential investments
  • Support for Kāinga Ora to borrow $2 billion extra to scale up at pace land acquisition to boost housing supply
  • The extension of the Apprenticeship Boost initiative to further support trades and trades training

There’s plenty in this for analysts to nudge and prod.

For our immediate purposes, Point of Order focused on the extension of the bright-line test – an effective capital gains tax on investment property – from five to 10 years.  Profits from the sale of property other than the main home could be hit with a tax up to 39 per cent.

This means profits from the sale of property other than the main home could be hit with a tax up to 39 per cent.

But hold on.  As Stuff reminds us – 

Robertson specifically told Newstalk ZB this wouldn’t happen in September, just before the October election.

He was asked if the rate would change, or the years, and replied “no”.

But when asked about this on Tuesday, Robertson said he had been “too definitive”.

“In the election campaign we told New Zealanders that we would continue to work to address the housing crisis,” Robertson said.

“Labour’s policy was clear that we wouldn’t introduce any new taxes. You’re referring to a specific interview that I did – I was too definitive in my comments in that interview,” Robertson said.

And guess what?

The PM is telling us that if Robertson said it, but nobody else in her team said it, well, it wasn’t a promise.   

Ardern said she didn’t count this as a “broken promise” and noted Labour itself had been “silent” on the issue – and that at the time they had not expected house prices to increase by up to 20 per cent year-on-year, as they have.

“At that time we were just not seeing the rampant house price growth that we are now. In fact during the last year we were told that house prices would come down, that potentially the housing market could collapse. We have seen the exact opposite,” Ardern said.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis is desperately trying to recover the high moral ground, too.

A few months ago, RNZ quoted a human rights lawyer as saying Corrections appeared to have broken the law by keeping two women in a segregation unit for four months at Auckland Region Women’s Correctional Facility.

The potential law breach emerged after RNZ revealed this morning that prisoners Karma Cripps and Mihi Bassett were bombed with pepper spray during their four-month stay in the segregation unit, known as the pound.

Cripps, an asthmatic, was gassed with four canisters of pepper spray in her closed cell, which Corrections said was a tactic called ‘cell buster extraction’, designed to incapacitate uncooperative inmates so they could be removed from their cells.

Lawyer Douglas Ewen said the conditions the women faced may not only have broken NZ law, but also have breached the International Convention Against Torture.

“New Zealand may have a case to answer in torture. Now, that is something that no western nation should ever have to put its hand up and admit.”

Corrections chief custodial officer Neil Beales told RNZ he could not address any of the specific allegations around the treatment of inmates because what happened to those prisoners was subject to an ongoing court case.

However, he defended the use of the cell-buster technique, which he said had only been used 24 times since 2016.

He said it was a lawful and legitimate tool.

“I would prefer to use pepper spray than have to send staff in with a shield, where they’re gonna have to physically restrain somebody using lock holds and wrestle them to the ground, in a small confined area, where there may be weapons involved.

RNZ also revealed inmates at the prison were made to lie face down on the ground with their heads beside the toilet before they were given food and that they had to show guards their used hyiene products to receive new ones.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the revelations about conditions at the prison were “disturbing” and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis had requested a briefing from officials.

But …  

Davis later said he had been assured the use of force by Corrections was lawful and justified.

Davis now says he is requiring the Department of Corrections to immediately improve processes, including the complaints system, and overhaul the management of women in prison, to ensure prisoners are treated in a way that fulfils the aims of the new strategy Hōkai Rangi

The Minister has received advice and evidence on incidents that took place at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility between 2019 and 2020 and yesterday outlined his expectations in a letter to the Chief Executive of Corrections.

He recalls seeking further information from Corrections, receiving advice from the Attorney-General around his concerns, and reviewing the Chief Inspector’s preliminary finding. 

He expect Corrections to act urgently to make changes.  His expected actions include:

  • That Corrections accepts the recommendations provided by the Chief Inspector.
  • A detailed plan outlining how Corrections will address systemic issues raised about ARWCF, with a staff member from the Chief Inspector’s Office allocated to oversee implementation for 12 months.
  • An urgent overhaul of the maximum security classification for women, the development of management plans for women and a review of all women’s prisons.
  • That Corrections review parts of the Prison Operations Manual and relevant Regulations that relate to areas of concern mentioned by the Chief Inspector.
  • That additional training is provided to frontline custodial staff with a focus on use of force, segregation, use of cells and searches, and management of difficult situations.
  • An external team to review the complaints process, with the Chief Inspector to allocate more staff to oversee the complaints process at each prison site.

Significantly, Davis said it is appropriate that Corrections apologise to the women involved.

“As the Minister, I will also apologise for the harm caused, given the system I am responsible for failed to treat them in line with what is right, what is good and what is promised in Hōkai Rangi,” Kelvin Davis said.

A progress report will be provided to the Minister by the end of August 2021.

But Davis’ remarks – as reported by RNZ last night – are more fascinating.

“It’s inappropriate for women in prison to be treated as if their needs were the same as male prisoners.”

Whoa.  Women should be treated differently from men?

Haven’t they been fighting to be treated the same?

And is the Minister saying treatment (or ill-treatment) that is inappropriate for women is not inappropriate  when dished out to male inmates?

Wow.  Let the Human Rights Commission, Equal Opportunities Commission or whatever agency dabbles in this sort of thing go to work on that.

It looks like compensation is in the offing whatever else transpires.

RNZ went on –

The Department of Corrections has also apologised to the women and is likely to offer them a formal apology and financial settlement in future.

The department has come under scrutiny after allegations of “cruel and inhumane” treatment of inmates at the prison.

The claims were aired during an arson trial for one of the women, Mihi Bassett, who was sentenced today.

At sentencing today, the Judge ruled Bassett had suffered enough and would not receive extra time on her sentence for arson at the prison in 2019.

The best that can be said is that the Chief Inspector found no evidence of deliberate cruelty from staff but staff overall lacked proper oversight and guidance.

This wasn’t good timing for Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who issued a statement with Senator Marise Payne, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women.

In the statement, the New Zealand and Australian Governments reiterated their grave concerns about the growing number of credible reports of severe human rights abuses against ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

“In particular, there is clear evidence of severe human rights abuses that include restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extra-judicial detentions, as well as forced labour and forced birth control, including sterilisation.”

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One thought on “The Minister of Finance’s tax promise has not been broken (really?) if nobody but him promised it, the PM is saying

  1. At that time we were just not seeing the rampant house price growth that we are now. In fact during the last year we were told that house prices would come down, that potentially the housing market could collapse. We have seen the exact opposite,” Ardern said.

    The master communicator in action again. Weasel words and untruths. I wonder if she has thought why house prices rose unexpectedly when she was told they would drop. Miss Ardern, Perhaps your government’s policies exacerbated the “housing crisis” and are the reason for the dramatic surge in house prices? Your government’s policies are to blame for a shortage of rental accommodation that is a reality.

    What will be the unintended consequences of this latest housing package? I predict that little will change. Kiwibuild failed, the reset failed too. Why will the third reset work when the same people are responsible for it. Minister Woods could not find a solution in the past so how can she evolve one in the future. She can’t her talents are beyond that.


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