Simon Bridges hails PM Jacinda Ardern's capital gains tax u-turn as victory

by Jo Moir / 18 April, 2019
Watch a video of the full announcement here.

The National Party is calling the u-turn on a capital gains tax a massive failure for the Prime Minister, but Jacinda Ardern says she's delivering what the public asked for - or in this case, didn't ask for.

Ms Ardern has abandoned any plans to implement the tax - not just under this government, but for as long as she's in charge.

New Zealand First wouldn't support the tax, which has left Labour bereft of its flagship policy and the Greens swallowing yet another dead rat.

At 2pm yesterday the country tuned in to hear the Government's response to the Tax Working Group and a capital gains tax.

Ms Ardern arrived at the Beehive theatrette on her own, no finance or revenue minister by her side, and very quickly declared there would be no capital gains tax.

"Today I am announcing that the coalition government has ruled out implementing a capital gains tax."

An audible gasp followed.

In Tauranga, Opposition leader Simon Bridges hailed it a victory for National.

"I think what you have is a massive defeat for the prime minister in her so-called year of delivery, on her flagship economic policy, she hasn't got there. She still believes in it but it hasn't happened.

"We'll take the win in National. We think it's our relentless opposition that's got that position, we've embarrassed the government into this."

It was New Zealand First's unwillingness that put the final nail in the coffin of the tax that Labour has campaigned on for the last three elections and the Greens the last two decades.

But it isn't her deputy, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters that Ms Ardern is holding responsible for the surprise move.

Despite countless efforts from Labour she's resigned to the fact the party's ultimately been unsuccessful in building a mandate.

"For that reason I am today setting out that for certainty's sake that under my leadership we will no longer campaign for, or implement, a capital gains tax. Not because I don't believe in it, but because I don't believe New Zealand does."

National Party leader Simon Bridges said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's capital gains tax u-turn was a "massive defeat". Photo: RNZ

National Party leader Simon Bridges said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's capital gains tax u-turn was a "massive defeat". Photo: RNZ

Mr Peters said although he blocked a capital gains tax the almost $2 million Tax Working Group had still been a worthwhile exercise.

"I've never seen anywhere in the world where the state of purpose for which it was introduced ended up being successful. We decided there are better ways in which we might reform our tax system to give people a fairer go and where the gap between the rich and the poor can be closed, but this is not the pathway."

The Green Party co-leader James Shaw has been dealt two hefty blows - not only the confirmation the tax has been ditched but that Ms Ardern has also taken it off the table in the future.

In February on Morning Report he boldly suggested the government didn't deserved to be re-elected if it didn't follow through with a capital gains tax.

Now he's changed his mind.

"Yes this government does deserve to be re-elected. We are taking bold action on climate change, on ending homelessness [and] on cleaning up our rivers."

While Mr Peters said his party stymied the tax because it was too complex and wouldn't achieve its stated purpose, the fact the it has been wiped off the slate altogether has raised questions about who really holds the power in the coalition government.

Batting away questions repeatedly about whether the tail is wagging the dog - Mr Peters momentarily let the diplomatic facade down when asked whether there might be a quid pro quo with Labour.

"May I remind you that the Labour Party is in government because of my party. We had choices when no other party did."

With the controversial tax dead and buried just in time for Easter, the government will hope it can rise again when Parliament returns and starts work on land banking and speculation changes, which have survived another day.

This article was first published on Radio NZ.

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