CGT backdown: You win some, you lose some

5:35 pm on 17 April 2019

Power Play: Labour and the Greens have eaten a big dead rat in losing the campaigned-on capital gains tax, while Winston Peters reminded everyone of the potency of coalition government, Jo Moir writes.

Winston Peters following a Cabinet meeting on gun law reform, 18 March.

Winston Peters following a Cabinet meeting on gun law reform, 18 March. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

It wasn't even an hour after the Prime Minister had put the final nail in the coffin that is the capital gains tax (CGT) when RNZ asked Mr Peters whether Labour will be expecting his party's support on another issue in return for losing this flagship policy. Mr Peters fired back: "May I remind you, the Labour Party is in government because of my party."

No reading between the lines necessary.

Nobody was more aware of how this announcement was going to play with the public and fourth estate than Jacinda Ardern and for that exact reason she made the call to front reporters and the country on her own.

While Mr Peters might have taken a CGT off the table today, Ms Ardern knew she could at least scrabble together one point on the Labour scoreboard by taking it off the table forever under her leadership.

An announcement of that magnitude would normally see her flanked by the likes of Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash, but today she made sure it was just her.

It was her captain's call to put it on the table at the 2017 election and, fairly swiftly, take it off again.

Today, it was her captain's call to get rid of the niggly tax that has pulled her party down election after election and, standing to address the country, it was a very visual reminder of just who is Prime Minister.

NZ First, two points - Labour, one.

As for the Greens they had no hope of getting any points on the board today and while co-leader James Shaw came out with his best disappointed-but-optimistic face on, it was clear yet again NZ First had served them a gigantic dead rat to eat.

Even Mr Shaw is aware they're starting to stack up.

Asked whether this was the biggest dead rat yet (bear in mind the waka-jumping legislation and Chinese water bottling expansion were pretty substantial) Mr Shaw replied: "I don't rank my list''.

He couldn't even hold on to the hope of a CGT under a future Labour-Greens coalition after Ms Ardern killed that today as well.

The Greens have been campaigning on a CGT for the entire two decades they've been in Parliament and today the Prime Minister stood and told the country there is simply no public mandate for it.

While she's disappointed with the decision after spending years campaigning on a fairer tax system, the consolation prize is knowing she's at least taken the wind out of the Opposition's sails, if nothing else.

National Party leader Simon Bridges had genuinely made some traction on the CGT both in the House and with the public before the country changed in an extraordinary way on 15 March when 50 people were killed in Christchurch's terror attack.

Politics ground to a halt, as it should, and Mr Bridges has never managed to regain that momentum in the weeks since.

A full blown CGT was never on the cards with NZ First in the mix but Mr Bridges would have been banking on a watered down one to give him something to chew on when Parliament resumes after Easter.

The best he can hope for is that another meaty issue comes his way over the recess.

National, zero points.

Mr Shaw really summed it up for everyone today when he said you win some, you lose some.

He'll be hoping nobody took him seriously when he told Morning Report in February that the government didn't deserve to be re-elected if it didn't introduce a CGT.

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