The tactics of tax attacks

Jacinda Ardern: tax assurances, sorely needed.

Jacinda Ardern: tax assurances, sorely needed.

EDITORIAL: Reminders of Labour's proposed 2003 fart tax still hang around like, well, a bad smell.

And lookee, here's one again. National's latest TV ad, cheerfully foreboding about Labour's intentions, points a tax-it arrow at what's generally regarded as the pollutionary end of a cow.

This has perhaps become a tiresome correction but as so many people know full well the much-derided "fart tax" was always  an inaccurate description.

The ad's arrow should point to the other end, because the environmentally problematic emissions come chiefly from cow belches.

And if you want to get all technical, the proposal wasn't for a tax but a research levy, the difference being . . . of scant interest to most of us, we grant you.

Does it really signify anything of consequence that the Nats, hardly ignorant of this, are still happy to invoke a description they know to be, strictly-speaking, inaccurate?

Election campaigns aren't widely celebrated for participants speaking strictly.

In any case, National is possibly entitled to answer it was simply using the publicly accepted phrase to invoke a still-existing mindset in its chief opponent, thereby raising a legitimate here-and-now concern. So its about being essentially, if not literally, true.

Or maybe they'd reply, with somewhat greater confidence, who really cares anyway?

Surely even pedantic types would struggle to sympathise too hard with Labour for bearing the brunt of this campaign tactic, given that the party has made itself a bigger target for tax concerns than it should be, by being too indistinct about its intentions.

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Not so much water, because that's one issue where the Nats have been splashing good and hard at the shallow end of the pool, massively overstating the prospective expense for the great majority of farmers.

But Labour has now issued a sorely-needed and significant assurance that neither a capital gains tax nor land tax would kick in before the 2020 election, which potentially means any intention announced in the interim could be rolled by a sufficiently disapproving electorate.

This change reverts to the stance taken by former leader Andrew Little, but dropped under Jacinda Ardern on the happy possibility that maybe Labour could open up its options of earlier action by saying let's just see what our advisory experts say, shall we?

National, meanwhile, will probably keep hammering its argument that Labour's intention to drop next year's planned tax cuts in favour of public spending is an effective tax increase. But people will already feel one way or another about that, so banging on about it won't change many minds and will, if anything, start to sound like an ambient whine.



 - Stuff


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