3 Oct 2023

Election 2023: National 'mischief making' over claims Ingrid Leary backs wealth tax - Hipkins

4:13 pm on 3 October 2023
Labour MP Ingrid Leary in select committee

National has seized on comments Ingrid Leary made about taxation at a public meeting. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

Labour leader Chris Hipkins is downplaying comments by MP Ingrid Leary who has spoken in favour of a wealth tax.

The Taieri MP, who has also been chair of the Finance and Expenditure Committee in the last Labour government, has become the second Labour MP in the past week to publicly back a wealth tax, following Ibrahim Omer.

Hipkins ruled out introducing a wealth tax before the election campaign got underway.

National's campaign manager Chris Bishop said today Hipkins' leadership role could be on the line because of his opposition to both taxes.

Speaking at a campaign event last night, Leary said while she backed the "captain's call", she would like to "leave a transparent and fairer tax system" as a legacy - including a capital gains tax.

Both Labour's potential coalition partners - the Greens and Te Pāti Māori - back putting more of the tax burden on the wealthy than at present.

"Labour loves tax like a shark loves blood, and Hipkins' colleagues are circling," Bishop said.

In a statement to RNZ, Leary said what she conveyed to the meeting was such taxes were not Labour policy this term, but could be in the future.

"The Labour tax policy is clear - we are not proposing a wealth tax or capital gains tax if re-elected. Caucus has agreed that position. What I conveyed was that it could be something for the future, but it is not a policy for our next term."

Leary also rejected Bishop's claim on Hipkins' leadership being under threat.

"What a load of rubbish. The person recording the meeting conveniently forgot to mention that I also said I think we have a fantastic prime minister who I see leading us into the future."

Leary refused to be interviewed, saying: "Sorry, because the story is such a beat-up I don't intend to participate further".

Bishop digs in over Labour's enthusiasm for major changes in taxation

National Party's Chris Bishop on 3 October, 2023.

Chris Bishop says Chris Hipkins' job could be at risk over his position on major tax reform. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

At a media briefing this afternoon Bishop repeated his claims, saying Leary's comments showed the Labour caucus was divided over tax.

"The simple truth is she got caught."

Bishop said Leary mentioned twice at the meeting that her party was not campaigning on these tax reforms while Hipkins was leader.

"The clear inference that I think many people would have drawn from that statement is that the moment Chris Hipkins is no longer leader of the Labour Party it's all on."

He said the last thing the country's fragile economy needed was a wealth tax, more capital gains taxes and more taxation generally.

"That would put a wrecking ball through the economy - what we need is tax relief and tax reduction. We need to start rebuilding this economy ..."

Bishop said Labour Ministers David Parker and Grant Robertson worked alongside Treasury and Inland Revenue for 18 months doing "a deep dive" on a wealth tax and other tax measures.

It was clear from publicly available documents that several Labour members disagreed with Hipkins' "captain's call" not to proceed.

Parker had been so disappointed at the decision he had resigned as Revenue minister, Bishop said.

"The Labour Party caucus is desperate for this .... they've got the Green Party next to them who are absolutely gagging for a wealth tax and more capital gains taxes, so much so that they've made it a bottom line in a coalition."

He claimed that several Labour Party candidates were making policy statements at meetings that were contrary to party policy and it was part of National's job to hold them to account.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins at Ngāti Hine Health Trust in Kawakawa.

Chris Hipkins Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Hipkins, speaking on Zoom to a media conference as he isolates with Covid-19, said the claims about Leary's stance are untrue.

"Ingrid Leary was absolutely categorically certain that we would not be introducing a wealth tax.

"That is not what Ingrid Leary said; she did not say we would be introducing a wealth tax, in fact, she was very clear that we wouldn't."

Asked if he was the only one standing in the way of Labour introducing both a capital gains tax and a wealth tax, he said the suggestion was "hilarious".

While the Labour Party was committed to a fairer tax system, a bill was going through Parliament to achieve this and the National Party was "mischief making" on the claims about Leary.

If either tax were to be introduced, the changes would need to go before the electorate.

"We're not putting a big change like that before the electorate so we won't be doing it."

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