Saturday, July 29, 2023

John MacDonald: Labour's fruitloop thinking on GST

How likely is it, do you think, that when the Australian Prime Minister jumped on the plane yesterday after his visit to Wellington and headed back to Canberra, Chris Hipkins wished he was on the plane too?

You know, like kids, they’ll have a playdate with one of their mates, but they don’t want the party to end and then they want to turn it into a sleepover.

I reckon that’s how Hipkins will have been feeling yesterday when he saw Anthony Albanese’s plane heading down the runway. Or maybe it was US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s plane Hipkins wanted to be on. Because he was in Wellington yesterday too.

Either way, any opportunity to get out of the country must be very appealing to the Prime Minister at the moment . He’s had a hell week and it got worse yesterday with National’s Finance spokesperson Nicola Willis claiming she’d seen Labour’s tax policy for the election.

And, according to Willis anyway, the main feature is a plan to take the GST off fruit and vegetables.

Something Labour’s finance spokesperson - and current Finance Minister - has poo-pooed at every opportunity. The guy who is looking more and more despondent with the direction his party is taking under Chris Hipkins.

The guy who will be expected to suddenly change his tune - publicly anyway - and expect us to believe that he’s changed his mind and now thinks it’s a great idea.

I've said many times, what good is a mind if you can’t change it? But not even Grant Robertson can pull this one off. So don’t be surprised if he calls it quits before election day.

Because, remember, he’s not standing in an electorate anymore - he’s on the party list. So it makes no difference whether he’s in or out. If he was standing in Wellington Central again, he’d have to commit to sticking around. But he’s not. So he can go whenever he wants.

And, if National is on the money and scrapping GST on fruit and veggies is part of Labour’s election policy, then I reckon we’ll see Grant Robertson walk - sooner rather than later.

And it’s not as if he’s alone in thinking that it’s a dumb idea. I think it’s a dumb idea. And I’ll get to that.

But GST expert Allan Bullot thinks it’s a dumb idea too, telling Newstalk ZB that the governments should keep their hands off GST.

"You end up with a slippery slope and before you know it GST, which is currently a very regular, very stable, very forecastable collection of revenue for the government is suddenly not collecting what you need and you turn around and the cupboard is bare."

Who could argue with that?

Apparently, the Labour Party thinks it can argue with that and, if National is on the money, Labour will be coming out at some point and saying “vote for us, and you won’t pay GST on fruit and veggies”.

But when will Labour learn that these one-size-fits-all policies just don’t work?

You don’t have to be a GST expert to know that fruit and veggies aren’t the only things making the supermarket shop more expensive.

What about things like milk, meat, bread, cheese, pet food, crackers, muesli bars, bacon, fish, yoghurt, cleaning products and sanitary items? Not to mention the price of the fuel we need to get to the supermarket in the first place.

None of these things would be any cheaper. So why do some politicians think it’s a good idea? Mainly because it sounds good. That’s what the tax expert said today too.

He said if you offer people a free lunch, they’ll take it. They won’t think about it, they’ll just say ‘thank you very much’.

And, if Labour does come out with a policy to scrap GST on fruit and veggies, that’s the reason why. Because it knows that some people won’t think about it too deeply - and, if it can convince enough people not to think about it too deeply, then it might have a chance.

That’s what it will be thinking and that’s what it will be hoping for.

But I think it would be just another desperate attempt by a political party that is looking more desperate by the day.

John MacDonald is the Canterbury Mornings host on Newstalk ZB Christchurch. This article was first published HERE

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