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"If You Want To Fight Socialism, Don't Adopt It"

Maybe Thirty odd hardy souls (including officials and spectators) sat through the third reading of the Taxation (Annual Rates for 2017–18, Employment and Investment Income, and Remedial Matters) Bill on Tuesday night. Not a title designed to either draw a crowd or inspire the loftiest rhetoric, but that’s probably how it’s intended. Certainly Dr Duncan Webb of Labour, who had the job of selling the Bill to the House, was making little effort to inspire anyone, and was eventually picked up by Speaker Mallard for merely talking about the Bill rather than explaining why anyone should vote for it. He clearly understands the idea of the game - make taxation even more boring than the public already thought it was so they won’t notice that you’ve slipped in a tax increase for the third reading.

National’s Ian McKelvie was predictably quick to point out that  the coalition government has waited until late in the process to ambush the hapless tax payers with an increase in the ‘bright line test’ for capital gains on certain property sales from 2 to 5 years. Waxing lyrical about hard working Kiwis investing their ‘little bit of savings’ then facing the risk of a change in circumstances exposing them to capital gains tax, there wasn’t a dry eye on the opposition benches.  That was until Act’s David Seymour got in his stride. After chiding the government for the obvious tax grab that the bright line test extension represents, he turned on National, who of course had introduced the mechanism in the first place in 2015... “If you want to fight socialism, don’t adopt it.”

Labour’s Dr Deborah Russell rounded out the debate with an impassioned defence of the Bill. She couldn’t for the life of her see why there would be any opposition given that there had been cross party support on nearly every aspect of it.  All the government is doing is changing the number 2 to the number 5, in tones a mother might use explaining something to a toddler which she knows the toddler won’t understand. She seemed to be hoping that delivering the rest of her speech with Churchillian flourishes and exaggerated gestures would deflect from the fact that the government had taken an early opportunity to increase tax revenue without introducing a new tax.