OK, so there are limitless ways to mock the Nat’s ‘WW2 bombers flying to Chile’ billboard (send us yours to add to these ones) but I want to quickly examine it seriously as a piece of political argument.
First, the premises:
a) our taxes are high: No, they’re not. Tax as a percentage of GDP is pretty much the same as it was in the 1990s and is falling now thanks to the Government’s tax cuts, starting on April 1 with the corporate rate and October 1 with the first tranche of income tax reductions. And our taxes are nothing extraordinary by international standards. In fact, we’re on the low side compared to the rest of the OECD.
b) our loved ones are leaving: Yes and no. Our loved ones have always left, either temporarily or permanently. High migration is part of being a settler society with a small population; it’s in our culture to migrate and opportunities for variety within a small country can be limited. Most people who leave for a period of time come back like me, like John Key, and, odds are, like you. And, yes, some leave for good, like Joh Bjelke-Petersen. In return, migrants come here, like Micheal Cullen. That churn is also part of being a settler state. But we usually have net immigration (the last time we had net emigration was under National in the 1990s) and we have a significant brain-gain from migration because a fair cross-section of the population emigrates but we demand high skill levels from the bulk of our immigrants. Current rates of net emigration by New Zealand citizens are within historic norms for the migration cycle on a per capita basis (National says we have the highest gross emigration since 1979 but that doesn’t take into account population growth, because they’re trying to deceive you).
Now, the argument: voting National will reduce taxes and see fewer Kiwis emigrate:
Well, National has said it will move Labour’s tax cut programme forward by a year and it promises larger cuts but we don’t know what they are or how they will be paid for. Let’s assume National somehow manages to rustle up the $10 billion needed to double Labour’s cuts, giving the average worker that legendary $50 plus. Would that reduce emigration? First, we know that Kiwis don’t emigrate solely for employment and more money, less than half of emigrants state those as their reasons for going. Kiwis leave to see the world, most of them intending to return. So, those people are not going to be swayed by tax cuts to stay for them, financial security is what is allowing them to travel. And what of people who might be leaving for better money off-shore? Well, Labour’s tax cuts will increase the after-tax income of the average worker by 5%, assuming National can double that, they are effectively arguing that a 5% net pay increase will stop people emigrating (Labour’s tax cuts won’t stop emigration but their extra cuts will). Does anyone seriously believe that Kiwis are emigrating for 5% more pay?
In conclusion, not only is the billboard poorly designed, it carries a message that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. In that sense, it epitomises the National election strategy perfectly.