Old policy plank diverts in its shiny new moralistic packaging
New Zealand’s governing coalition led by the Labour Party and incorporating minority parties in the form of the centrist New Zealand First and ideological Greens blinded those who challenge it with a dazzling diversion in the form of a public debate on the introduction of a capital gains tax.
This piece of legerdemain had the effect of scattering all the slavering wolves about to board the Labour government sledge and had the effect too of cementing in its own far left wing.
Her Majesty’s Opposition tearing chunks happily out of the government’s collapsed mass house construction scheme took the bait and now chased the tax instead of the government.
So did the mainstream media, never truly at home with tax lore anyway, and which proceeded to tie itself in knots seeking to explain the inexplicable.
Obliterated like footsteps in a snowstorm was the nation’s hydro carbons lobby.
The hapless Petroleum Exploration and Production Association known as PEPANZ chose this very moment to release its report on the effect of the Labour coalition’s major introductory policy which was to impose a sinking lid on oil and gas exploration and production.
PEPANZ pointed out now the many billions of dollars in income the nation would not have available to spend because of the cloture on oil and gas.
The report, a weighty affair, after one or two passing mentions sank like a stone in a forest lake -- and just as fast.
The Labour coalition describes things like debates, consultations and discussions as conversations and with precision it introduced on cue the one scheme designed to repackage and redirect the conversation away from the troubled topics of public housing and the hydrocarbons slapdown.
The diverting issue?
The family home.
Once the capital gains tax “working group” released its deliberations and once it was understood that the family home was exempt from any such tax the conversation about it became just that –a conversation.
Like an upscale dinner party the conversation in Auckland and Wellington’s leafier suburbs now segued into the wisdom or otherwise of excluding art collections from the mooted tax.
Only in the blogosphere was the slickly timed “conversation” evaluated for what it was and is which is a diversion away from the barely graspable reality.
This is that the university-isation of the job market and the resulting student loans indebtedness, coupled with officially encouraged high immigration, and the low wages due to globalisation mean that the family home, taxable or not for so many is an ephemera.
Move to the provinces then, the areas away from the universities and thus part of the nation’s productive backbone.
Taranaki for example?
Here the Petroleum Exploration & Production Association whose timing was as skewed as the governing coalition’s was precise buried its own message which was that the coalition’s own de-industrialisation of the nation’s most economically balanced province would perforce shrivel the job opportunities in an affordable housing region.
The capital gains tax working group and the scheduling of its deliberations deserves rather more than a footnote in any treatise of any scope at all in the proliferating field of political science.
The lesson is this and it deserves to be repeated.
In politics timing is everything.
It is not what you do. It is when you do it.
The Labour government coalition leadership knew that the Opposition, which, like Labour governments had for so long danced around capital gains, kicked it down the road, would be wrong-footed.
It knew too that the mainstream would entangle itself in thickets of detail.
So the well-trodden policy plank now re-emerges and this time repackaged in a moral glitter wrap of equality and kindness.
As a conversation piece it now drowned out the babble from government critics about everything from tree-planting, to public housing, to resources development.
The coalition knew the futility of sinking into factual arguments such as the one about in spite of having capital gains taxes Spain and Ireland’s house prices spiked higher than New Zealand’s in the last bust.
So it keeps to broad uplands, the moral high ground which says “we care.”
As the oil and gas people, the Opposition, and the mainstream are now in the process of re discovering--- in politics simplicity always prevails over complexity.
Especially when it is presented in a framework of contemporary morality.