In an extraordinary move which smacks of desperation, National Leader Judith Collins continues to campaign against a Greens policy which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has categorically ruled out implementing.
On top of that, National’s campaign against the tax has once again got the calculations of the impact of that policy proposal wrong.
Collins’ only defence is essentially to accuse the Prime Minister of lying.
At the same time, there are other signs that National is in trouble.
Collins has cancelled a trip to Tauranga this week to go to Hamilton because it seems the two National seats there are in trouble.
How National is organising its campaign also seems to smack of an internal meltdown.
Tauranga MP, and former Leader, Simon Bridges, told POLITIK no one had consulted him about her trip there.
And then in a media standup yesterday she claimed she was still going there.
“Hamilton and Tauranga isn’t it?” she said.
Media: “No, it’s just Hamilton.”
Collins: “Oh well, these things change; it’s a moving feast.”
What this would seem to show is that the campaign is sending out upcoming event schedules to the media without consulting the leader and obviously no one consulting the local MP.
But behind the scenes within National there has been a pervading sense of crisis since the leakage of an email last Monday from Maungakiekie MP, Denise Lee, criticising Collins for not consulting her about a change in the policy area she has responsibility for; the Auckland Council.
POLITIK understands that Collins and the party hierarchy believe they have identified the MP who leaked the email.
The MP cannot be named for legal reasons, but they are in the top 20 of the caucus and to put it on the record, it is neither Lee nor Simon Bridges.
Collins has apparently confronted the MP, and three separate sources have told POLITIK that her approach was greeted with what one described as a tirade.
Collins is clearly the victim of an under-resourced and inexperienced campaign organisation, but yesterday her decision to press ahead with a campaign against policy the Government has renounced left her open to exactly how Jacinda Ardern responded.
“I consider that the last roll of the misinformation dice,” she said.
“Any suggestion of picking up other parties plans is mischievous and wrong.
“And I don’t know how many times we have had to restate that.”
In Northland on Friday, Ardern could hardly have been more clear when she was asked by POLITIK how she would respond to a request by the Greens during the formation of government negotiations to discuss a wealth tax.
“I’ll say exactly the same thing that I’ve said publicly all the way through,” she said.
“We will not be implementing a wealth tax and then its term of Government.
“We have already established and set up Labour’s tax policy, and that is what we’re sticking to.
POLITIK So he’s (Shaw) wasting his time?
ARDERN: “I do believe that when it comes to something as important as tax policy, voters do need certainty.
“And so while, yes, of course, many things, of course, are the subject of negotiations, if you are in the position of forming Government when it comes to tax policy, we need to provide certainty, and that’s what we’re doing.
POLITIK: “So there’ll be no negotiations with the Greens on this?”
ARDERN: “I’ve already said what our position is.”
When this was put to Collins yesterday, she said: “ I’m telling you, this is exactly what they plan to do. We know that they want to put up taxes.”
Labour does want to to put up income tax on incomes above $180,000, but Ardern and Robertson have repeatedly said that is the limit to any tax increases over the next term.
Collins says they cannot be believed.
“They’ve already put up taxes in the income tax area, but they also want to put taxes on your taxes,” she said.
“The thing is, they’re not telling you exactly what James Shaw has made very plain.
“That’s exactly what he wants to do.
“And people need to know that. And that’s all very well to say that they won’t give in to it, Labour; but we’ve already seen them give in to the Greens before.”
National obviously had a campaign ready to go against the wealth tax, which was presumably inspired by James Shaws’ comments on NewstalkZB on Thursday.
But it would seem the party was unaware of Ardern’s repeated denials during a media conference in the Puketi Forest on Friday.
National’s sloppy research extended to its calculation on the impact of the Greens’ proposal.
It was running Facebook ads saying it would cost an average Auckland retired couple $140 a week.
That is predicated on an average Auckland house price of around $1 million and Westpac’s recommended retirement savings of $400,000s for a couple.
But the Greens proposal is for the tax to apply at $2 million for a couple. Thus National’s notional couple would not pay a cent.
There was, however, a suggestion over the weekend that not everybody in Labour has given up on some way of taxing wealth.
Trade Minister David Parker was speaking at virtual OECD conference on confronting planetary economic emergencies.
“After the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) New Zealand resisted Quantitative Easing (QE) but this year in the face of COVID – with imported interest rates already at historic lows – our central bank joined the QE party,” he said.
“So house prices are increasing again despite the Covid crisis and the impact of the lockdown on employment and growth.
“This is not new.
“Since the GFC, the wealthy have been able to leverage their investments at very low-interest rates.
“This has been to the relative detriment of the young, and those without assets.
There is a problem with this status quo around the world and we need a conversation about what the remedy might be.”
Parker said that in in 2018 in New Zealand the top 10 per cent of households held over half (53%) of household wealth, and the top 1 per cent held 16 per cent of wealth.
He said the politicians at the conference should encourage the OECD to address both income and wealth inequality.
“We should seize the opportunities thrust upon us by COVID, and if we do we will all be better off,” he said.
Expect to hear a lot more about wealth inequality over the next three years, but it is clear no-one should expect a wealth tax..