13 Oct 2020

Election 2020: Collins doubles down on wealth tax attack

3:19 pm on 13 October 2020

National Party leader Judith Collins says Labour would implement a wealth tax despite a promise not to, while confirming her party's commitment to two Wellington roading projects.

Judith Collins in Wellington

Judith Collins in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

National said in August it planned to forge ahead with the original plan for the Petone-Grenada link road linking northern Wellington and the Hutt Valley, as well as the Cross Valley Link project between State Highway 2 and Seaview as a State Highway to be built at the same time.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) recommended redesigning the project after it was dropped following a 2017 report that concluded the route was at risk of landslides in a major earthquake.

Collins says it is a vital project for the region to unlock its economic potential.

"Every time there's an accident on State Highway 1 ... everything grinds to a halt. This region is being choked by congestion. You have the worst traffic in Australasia for a city under one million people and we need to get serious about delivering very high quality infrastructure," she said.

The party's estimated $1 billion plan calls for the links between Seaview and Tawa, with four new interchanges to be built on and near State Highways 1 and 2.

Collins says the project will create more resilience providing an alternative route north when Ngauranga is out of action, could save about 30 minutes travel time between the Hutt Valley and Porirua, and would unlock the potential for 2500 new homes.

She went on the attack against her political opponent Labour.

"What we've seen ... for commuters in this region is fuel taxes after fuel taxes, a muddled something called 'Let's Get Wellington Moving' announcement from Phil Twyford which should have been named 'Let's Not Get Wellington Moving', and state highway funding cuts that saw the plans for Petone to Grenada effectively cancelled."

Further attacks on wealth tax

Indeed, much of her speech at Grenada Community Hall was dedicated to a policy that was not her own, attacking the Green Party's wealth tax proposal, a 1 percent tax on individuals' net wealth over $1 million, and 2 percent for net wealth above $2m.

The Greens maintain that the policy would be on a Labour-Green negotiating table, but Labour and its leader Ardern having consistently ruled it out. A political scientist this morning told RNZ the policy was unlikely to get across the line.

That has not stopped Collins - who has similarly ruled out the ACT Party's tax policy - continuing to attack the idea, saying Labour would do it anyway.

Collins this morning says the parties are "totally conflicted".

"The Greens want to do it and, you know, Labour wants to do it. I don't care what Labour says - they'll do it if they get the chance," she says.

"Labour want to have the Greens with them at every single moment so they can use them as the excuse for not doing what they've promised to do."

She said superannuation and retirement savings would be subject to the wealth tax.

"People need to realise that if you've got a home that's worth any amount of money when you've paid of your mortgage over a million dollars ... you're going to be subject to it. It's that tough.

"No green envy wealth tax with us, it will be with the other lot if they get the chance."

Ardern again rejected Collins' claims over the Green wealth tax policy.

"I have said the same thing on this policy no less than probably 50 times. I have ruled it out. It is not our policy. What you're seeing from the National Party, frankly, is desperate."

However her other coalition partner New Zealand First leader Winston Peters seemed to agree with Collins, saying he did think the Greens would be able to get a wealth tax agreed to in negotiations.

"Judith Collins' got her calculations wrong but as to the threat it is - yes I do.

"As the economic crisis has changed and circumstances change then what happens is they give that as an excuse. They did it with the BNZ, they used it with respect to the Asian financial crisis, they've used it with respect to the global financial crisis, every chance they've had they've used the excuse to break their word, so why would it be different?"

Slogans and coalition criticisms

Collins' attacks did not stop there, criticising all three parties over their record in government.

It is very difficult when we look at a track record like KiwiBuild, like fees free, light rail, all these sorts of promises that have been made. I think we also had the promise of ending child poverty."

She said that record was why she doubted Ardern's word when ruling out the wealth tax, and said it was "absolutely responsible" to tell New Zealanders "what is planned for them if a Labour-Greens government gets in, or even a Labour government".

"Just look at the record, Jacinda Ardern said 16,000 homes built by this time ... did she do it? No she did not ... actually progress stopped when it comes to transport. Almost everything she has said she would deliver she has failed to deliver so why would I suddenly now - suddenly - start believing anything she says on her promises."

Winston Peters, Jacinda Ardern, and James Shaw.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, and Greens co-leader James Shaw. Photo: Pool images / Getty / NZME / RNZ

Borrowing one of Ardern's slogans herself, she said Labour was good at slogans but did not deliver.

"They are so good with just putting out slogans - because that's all they are really isn't it, the Labour party they do slogans ... almost everything they do is just a slogan. That's the difference between us and them. We deliver, they have a slogan.

"Let's just do this. Let's really actually get Wellington built, get it moving properly, moving fast, get people to work and get people growing our economy and let's not do the ... Green envy wealth tax."

She rejected NZ First's own slogan, that they are a handbrake on the other parties.

"The only reason the Greens and Labour formed the last government was because New Zealand First put them there. Let's be under no illusions: they're not a handbrake, they're the enablers of the Greens-Labour vision that has actually brought this city to a halt, a stop, and also many other parts of New Zealand.

For his part, Peters said his party was more experienced and Labour was thin on the ground.

"Do I think the Labour Party are thin on the ground? They think they are. You know they think they are.

"We're an underdog, we recognise that, but we're coming with a rush now and you can do what you'd like about that."

He also refused to rule out a coalition with National and ACT.

"For 27 years we've never ever said before the election and before the voters have spoken what we would do until we've had a chance to see what the voters have done, who's in Parliament, a chance to discuss with the MPs and the board what the options are."

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