I watched on TV Parliament’s opening session yesterday. High drama of a sort. First, Lockwood Smith, magnificently gowned in his doctoral robes, moved to the Speaker’s chair as if to the manor born. But then John Key’s speech was more cautious than the preceding hype had suggested. Bill English beside him fixed a smile which never wavered. The whips behind him tried to look interested. But then Key’s never been one for high rhetoric. It was a speech of two speeds, the first half normal, the second almost a gabble as he raced through it. The trouble with generalities is they are harder to pronounce than specifics.
Personal tax cuts, yes, but short of detail. GST, a rise to 15% being considered. I take that as certain. A toughening up of property tax but again substance deferred until the budget. Another toe into the water. The announcements will make the polls interesting for up till now Key has ridden the crest of the wave. The weekend’s trouble-free Waitangi celebrations might help him ride on at this stage. In this morning’s paper a business critic said the proposals were under-whelming. GST will be the rub for the polls.
He talked about compensation for the lower paid as a sop for GST. Phil Goff predictably talked about giving to the rich by taking from the poor. He’s right. No matter what compensation is given there will always be unders and overs in any tax-change but on balance a GST rise does seem weighed against the poor. It’ll take a while though for the impact to be felt.
A chilling sentence to me in Key’s speech was increased water-irrigation in Canterbury. Bye-bye McKenzie country.
Goff’s speech was strong. Though he did make a gaffe. He said he was against GST. Quickly he corrected himself, he was against the rise in GST. He pointed out, accurately, that the Government had left bolt-holes galore in its statement. True, but that’s Key’s style. Still it was good to see Goff with fire in his belly. His whips responded with more animation than National’s as Goff chipped away at the repeat nature of the Government’s announcements. As an example, the rebuilding of the Kopu bridge at Thames was a Labour funded policy. National has announced it eleven times. (Having lived at Thames and knowing the bottleneck it is I say to whoever is the Government just get on and do it).
Dr Norman’s speech contained many good points about the environment. The House emptied. Enough said. Come election time the Greens could be trouble though mining on Crown land will be an excitable issue.
Rodney Hyde spoke of working with the government but pointed out it was not ‘all love and roses’. ACT differed over what Hyde called ‘climate-gate’. Curiously, he never mentioned taxes or GST.
Likewise, neither did Tariana Turia. She devoted her time to speaking about whanau ora, its necessity and possibility. Her agenda was clear. Watch this space.
Jim Anderton was in his element. No pre-election talk of a GST rise, indeed John Key had said ‘a half-decent government would have no need to raise it’. But he was speaking to a nearly deserted house. In the Beehive the spin-doctors would be assessing the fall-out. I switched off as Anderton concluded. Peter Dunne – the best shock of hair in the House - I am sure would have spoken well on the subject of tax but I’d had enough excitement for the afternoon.