27 Jul 2023

National claims Labour's tax policy will remove GST on fruit and vegetables

4:00 pm on 27 July 2023
Deputy leader of the National Party Nicola Willis

National's deputy leader Nicola Willis says she understands Labour's policy includes removing GST from fruit and vegetables. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

National is claiming to know details of Labour's soon-to-be-announced tax policy, suggesting the party will campaign on removing GST from fruit and vegetables.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins is not denying National's claims, saying "we haven't announced our tax policy yet... people can speculate all they like".

National's deputy leader Nicola Willis said she understood Labour's policy included the removal of the 15 percent tax on fruit and vegetables.

When asked how she knew details of Labour's policy, Willis replied: "there's been quite a lot of leaks out of the government lately".

"This is information that has come to me that I believe to be true."

Willis said the decision to campaign on the removal of GST from fruit and vegetables showed clear cracks in Labour's caucus.

She pointed to comments Labour's finance spokesperson Grant Robertson made as recently this year, raising serious concerns about the policy.

Robertson told Newshub in late March about the challenges of administering such changes to GST.

"GST is a comprehensive tax which makes it very easy to administer and people in the room who've been in other countries with more exemptions will know it becomes an absolute boondoggle to get through.

"If you do it off fresh fruit and vegetables, or even staple products, then you get into an argument of what's the difference between beetroot and canned beetroot, and if you want to make a real impact on the lowest income people you wouldn't cut the tax off fresh beetroot - that's not what people on low incomes buy," Robertson told Newshub.

Willis said Labour was completely divided over tax.

"Despite these serious concerns having been raised, Chris Hipkins is no longer taking his finance minister seriously and intends to announce this policy.

"This is a lurching, chaotic government that is going from one bandaid to another. What New Zealand needs is a coherent plan to address the underlying drivers of inflation, to reduce the cost of living and to lift incomes for all. Instead, they have a chaotic government that is lurching from one idea to the next at sixes and sevens with each other with no principle or coherence left," Willis said.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins did not deny his party would campaign on the policy.

"I'm not going to announce a tax policy today and Nicola Willis shouldn't be. She should be more focused on making her own promises add up, rather than trying to purport to announce policies on behalf of the Labour Party," he said.

"I'm not going to comment on it on a hypothetical policy that I haven't announced."

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