Stacey Kirk: The high price of power or the cost of winning, one and the same in politics video

CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ.

Prime Minister Bill English is questioned on Tax Cuts.

OPINION: You get what you pay for. 

It's a saying that applies to all manner of situations – choosing a tradie, buying a television, a car, or even a house. 

In a looser context, it can be applied to the Government we elect (although the full cost isn't known until after payment is made, and whether we think it was worth it or not, there's no option to withhold). 

Opposition parties were asked to strike their tax stakes in the ground this week, in response to the removal of yet another veil in the Government's tax-cut dance.

READ MORE:
National is preparing to dangle tax cut and boost lower incomes as the election looms 
Joyce signals low and middle earners' top rates target for tax cuts
Finance Minister warns home buyers to think ahead, with houses "fully priced"
Steven Joyce lining up tax thresholds 

Labour leader Andrew Little has his own political party, with its own policies. He'll work with the Greens and they'll ...
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Labour leader Andrew Little has his own political party, with its own policies. He'll work with the Greens and they'll negotiate to form a government if the electorate allows - just like any other party. Concessions will be made.

It quickly became clear that while the agreement signed by Labour and Greens has provided much clarity on where the parties stand, there's still a decided amount of grey. 

If a Green voter is riding on the promise of a tough capital gains tax, can they reasonably feel aggrieved if their party is unable to follow through on that policy from inside Cabinet? 

And if a Labour voter gives their tick to red, will the policies they've paid for with that tick resemble what they get in a Labour government? 

Where Labour has promised no new taxes and no increase to taxes, how does that fit with a Greens tax policy that could be very similar to their 2014 platform which included introducing a new 40 per cent top tax rate, a new ecological tax and a capital gains tax.

Their positions aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, and Labour has also helpfully promised a policy to establish a tax working group which would undoubtedly recommend changes to the overall balance of tax settings, particularly where assets and wealth are concerned.

Green Party co-leaders Metiria Turei and James Shaw have a different political party with different policies. If they ...
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Green Party co-leaders Metiria Turei and James Shaw have a different political party with different policies. If they get the opportunity, they will negotiate with Labour to support them in government - like any smaller party. Concessions will be made.

That immediately gives wiggle room.

Working under the memorandum of understanding between the two parties – a sort of pre-election coalition – the leaders are set to release a joint "fiscal framework" next week. 

It will be the rules of engagement to making monetary decisions, if the parties are in a position to begin post-election negotiations. 

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters leads his own political party, with its own policies, and if he's in the ...
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters leads his own political party, with its own policies, and if he's in the position to go with either Labour and the Greens, or National, he'll aim to get as many of his policies as he can out of either group. (And then some).

This is important, because in a Labour-Green government, the Greens would undoubtedly have more influence than National's coalition partners of ACT, United Future and the Maori Party have. 

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But at the same time, are National voters who expected stronger reform to the Resource Management Act really getting what they paid for? No, due to a reasonable amount of power exerted by a couple of one and two-person parties. 

In fairness, these questions apply to every political party in shades. Smaller parties in government have more power than their vote share might warrant, but over reach and they run the risk of paying the price to an electorate that prizes stability above almost anything else. 

Moreover, these questions could apply a great deal more for any party having to negotiate with NZ First leader Winston Peters. 

Many would remember the 1996 election, where New Zealand carried on with its summer holidays for six weeks in a technical state of anarchy. 

Aside from the fact we learnt Kiwi life mercifully goes on without the immediate formation of a government, it also became apparent what a party was prepared to concede to stay in power. 

In that case it was the deputy prime ministership and the seniority of the finance minister (at least in theory), with the creation of a new position of Treasurer so Peters could sit above the finance minister. 

NZ First could well be in a similar position of kingmaker come September, and that could shift many a campaign plank. 

For all the intricate manoeuvring and political strategy yet to play out, elections aren't that complicated. All political parties can do is put forward their platforms in full and ask people to support them.

On election day, with a combination of policy knowledge, a splash of mum and dad, and a dash of gut feeling, voters decide. 

That's when we realise that what we actually paid for is MMP. 

 - Sunday Star Times

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