MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFF
Labour has done a handbrake turn on its tax plans promising that it will not bring in extra new taxes until after the 2020 election.
The move came after sustained attacks from National on the vagueness of its tax policy and a political poll that showed it falling far behind.
But as the polls continue to whiplash, a new survey suggests it may not have been that crucial for Labour to act although the party believed it was being hurt by the issue.
A 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll on Thursday showed Labour on 44 per cent with a solid lead over National on 40 per cent meaning Labour could govern with either the Greens or NZ First’s support.
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Finance spokesman Grant Robertson on Thursday called a surprise press conference to say any recommendations from Labour’s planned tax working group (TWG) would not take effect until 2021 to give the public a chance to assess them before voting.
“We will undertake the work and we will take it through to legislation. But no outcomes from the tax working group will come into force until the 2021 tax year – that is April 1, 2021,” Robertson said.
But Labour would press ahead with the other policies it has already announced including cancelling National’s planned April 1, 2018 tax cuts, extending the bright line test when capital gains tax is changed on investment properties to five years, and introducing water and tourist levies.
The change represents a back down by Labour leader Jacinda Ardern who had said she wanted the flexibility to introduce changes recommended by the TWG, such as a capital gains tax on investment properties, in her first term to address the housing crisis.
But on Thursday she said she had listened to public concerns and the new policy balanced the urgency to solve the housing crisis with giving voters certainty.
Prime Minister Bill English said it was not much of a backdown as Labour were still committed to cancelling tax cuts already legislated but not yet in effect.
“They haven’t moved on income taxes. The current law of New Zealand is that on the first of April someone on the average wage will be about $1000 a year better off thanks to tax cuts,” he said.
Finance Minister Steven Joyce said Labour had begun a “long march back but they’ve got a way to go.”
“They’ve postponed the introduction of two taxes but have reaffirmed their intention to impose a water tax, regional fuel tax, tourism tax, income tax increases, and bringing farming into the ETS (emissions trading scheme),” he said.
But the polls are showing an increasingly confused picture with the election just eight days away.
The polls from the two main television channels are now diverging wildly with 1 News consistently showing a lead for Labour while Newshub-Reid Research last had National 10 points ahead and able to govern alone.
But the parties internal polling puts the numbers much closer, with strategists still describing the race as “neck and neck”.
Speaking at a Stuff finance debate on Thursday, shortly after the poll was released, both Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Labour spokesman Grant Robertson agreed they were not putting too much stock on either.
“But in terms of the poll, there won’t be much difference between me and Steven talking about that because we both know it’s close,” Robertson said.
Stuffs own poll of polls has National ahead, but the gap remaining tight.
It puts National on 43.3 per cent, Labour on 38.1 per cent, NZ First on 7.8 per cent and the Greens on 7 per cent.
The Stuff Poll of Polls is a rolling average taken across the latest polls from Roy Morgan, 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll and Newshub-Reid Research.