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In Tax we trust

Written By: - Date published: 11:20 am, January 24th, 2022 - 86 comments
Categories: Economy, poverty, tax - Tags:

Millionaires and billionaires worldwide are calling for governments to tax them more.

From their website:

To our fellow millionaires and billionaires,

If you’re participating in  the World Economic Forum’s ‘online Davos’ this January , you’re going to be joining an exclusive group of people looking for an answer to the question behind this year’s theme, ‘how do we work together and restore trust?’

You’re not going to find the answer in a private forum, surrounded by other millionaires and billionaires and the world’s most powerful people. If you’re paying attention, you’ll find that you’re part of the problem.

Trust – in politics, in society, in one another – is not built in tiny side rooms only accessible by the very richest and most powerful. It’s not built by billionaire space travelers who make a fortune out of a pandemic but pay almost nothing in taxes and provide poor wages for their workers. Trust is built through accountability, through well-oiled, fair, and open democracies that provide good services and support all their citizens.

And the bedrock of a strong democracy is a fair tax system. A fair tax system.

As millionaires, we know that the current tax system is not fair. Most of us can say that, while the world has gone through an immense amount of suffering in the last two years, we have actually seen our wealth rise during the pandemic – yet few if any of us can honestly say that we pay our fair share in taxes.

This injustice baked into the foundation of the international tax system has created a colossal lack of trust between the people of the world and the elites who are the architects of this system. Bridging that divide is going to take more than billionaire vanity projects or piecemeal philanthropic gestures – it’s going to take a complete overhaul of a system that up until now has been deliberately designed to make the rich richer.

To put it simply, restoring trust requires taxing the rich. The world – every country in it – must demand the rich pay their fair share. Tax us, the rich, and tax us now.

The truth is that ‘Davos’ doesn’t deserve the world’s trust right now. For all the countless hours spent talking about making the world a better place, the conference has produced little tangible value amidst a torrent of self-congratulations. Until participants acknowledge the simple, effective solution staring them in the face – taxing the rich – the people of the world will continue to see their so-called dedication to fixing the world’s problems as little more than a performance.

History paints a pretty bleak picture of what the endgame of extremely unequal societies looks like. For all our well-being – rich and poor alike – it’s time to confront inequality and choose to tax the rich. Show the people of the world that you deserve their trust.

If you don’t, then all the private talks won’t change what’s coming – it’s taxes or pitchforks. Let’s listen to history and choose wisely.

The Signers

A long time ago, the late great Jim Anderton said similarly:

You can’t go on developing an underclass of larger and larger numbers and always sit there being poverty stricken. Sooner or later they’re going to start smashing the place to pieces and we’ve seen that in other countries so why would we think we’re sacrosanct here? And then my point is to them, how secure is your investment then?”

86 comments on “In Tax we trust ”

  1. Gosman 1

    To be precise, they are calling on governments to tax OTHER millionaires and billionaires more. There shouldn’t be anything to is nothing to stop individuals coming to an arrangement with the government where they gift a larger proportion of their income if they so desire.

    • Ad 1.1

      Would you?

    • Tricledrown 1.2

      Yeah right I worked in inland revenue.

      Of all medium to large business’s through out NZ only one paid their full taxes. When I worked their.

      Gosman if every body paid their taxes especially the wealthy taxes would be lower for everyone else.

      Including you Gosman who is most likely to be a lowly paid fanboy minion.

      If you were one of the wealthy elite you would not be wasting your time posting on this site.

      • DukeEll 1.2.1

        Because they would give someone who can barely articulate a thought onto paper access to every single large and medium sized company in New Zealand

      • mikesh 1.2.2

        Gosman if every body paid their taxes especially the wealthy taxes would be lower for everyone else.

        Sounds like an Irishism.

  2. Stuart Munro 2

    I expect little response from our 'centrist' politicians – unless they can figure out a way to parlay a tax increase into a donation to their parties or electoral expenses.

  3. arkie 3

    The Greens have been advocating for a wealth tax for years, a part of their Poverty Action Plan:

    • A 1% wealth tax for those with a net-worth over $1 million.
    • And two new top income tax brackets for a more progressive tax system that redistributes wealth.


    • Sabine 3.1

      We don't need a wealth tax, if we would essentially just cut a few of the 'write of schemes' and 'loopholes' that so conveniently allows for people with the means to hire good accountants to avoid paying the taxes that already exists.



      The wealth tax was a dumb idiotic idea last time, and its even dumber this time around. There are many 'millionaires' in NZ, ordinary people that own houses that have increased dramatically in value based on nothing else then the government making cheap credit cheaper for hte very rich and cash flush last year and forced a buying frenzie that saw houses in some areas double in costs, with no changes to the job market and other factors, based on nothing but pure speculation.

      But surely that would be easier to do then to actually enforce existing tax laws and maybe even arrest and jail the occasional rich lister who is not paying their full tax bill. Oh, that would upset their rich friends? lol. The dears.


      The wealthiest New Zealanders pay just 12 per cent of their total income in tax on average, according to research from Inland Revenue and Treasury, Stuff can reveal.

      The same research found 42 per cent of the wealthiest New Zealanders were paying lower tax rates than the lowest tax rate paid by people who earn their money from an ordinary job or a benefit.

      That compares with an effective tax rate of about 16-18 per cent on New Zealanders earning the median income from salaries and wages of $55,000-$60,000.

      Maybe the Greens should stick to Gender Woo Woo, it suits them better, all they have to do is throw glitter about and pretend it fixed something.

      • arkie 3.1.1

        Yes the Greens are responsible for how Labour has been governing. They are also entirely responsible for Labour MP Jan Tinetti's BDMRR Bill, as well as the under-enforcement of existing tax law. All while outside of Cabinet!


        What you are complaining about can all be laid squarely at the feet of the Labour Government. The desire to punish the Greens for attempting to offer alternative policies is baffling. It works out really well for those already in power. Must we let perfect be the enemy of good?

      • Craig H 3.1.2

        I prefer land tax personally, but it's not hard to adjust wealth tax thresholds upwards to account for increasing house prices – make the threshold $3 million per person, job done.

        If it were as easy to remove tax loopholes as you think it is, surely it would have happened by now – parliaments and tax departments have been trying for over a century to do it. If wealthy NZers are being taxed at an average of 12% of their income, maybe a wealth or land tax is the easiest way to tax them higher.

  4. Blazer 4

    The U.S.A's most prosperous time was in the 50's when taxes went up to 80% plus.

    Thatcher,Reagan,Greenspan….bought and paid for by the rich accelerated the present….diabolical…situation.

    • alwyn 4.1

      The average tax rate on the top 1% of households in the 1950s wasn't anything like 80%. It was in fact about 42% which wasn't much lower than today.

      This link is a bit out of date in that it only goes up to about 2014 but it illustrates the effect.


      • Blazer 4.1.1

        From your link…' the top federal income tax rate was 91 percent for most of the decade.[1]'

        So that suggests avoidance…big time…

        as for..'It was in fact about 42% which wasn't much lower than today.'….you mean higher…right.

        • alwyn

          Whoops. Yes I did mean higher.

          It wasn't avoidance in the sense of criminal behaviour. The US tax code has lots of deliberate and legal ways to reduce your tax. I doubt if anyone has ever paid the hypothetical top tax rate.

        • Tricledrown

          That 91% only affected income over US$200,000 in today's money over $2 million per annum.

          Not many if any would have paid that amount.

      • mac1 4.1.2


        Graph with top tax rate figures for NZ. Alwyn's figures apply to US.

        Te Ara says "The top rate of income tax has varied widely over time. It first spiked in the First World War, and again in the 1920s depression and in the Second World War, when it peaked at 90%. The top rate remained high until 1988 when it dropped to 33%. These high top rates of income tax encouraged widespread tax evasion and avoidance through the many loopholes in the complicated tax system that had evolved following the Second World War."

        • alwyn

          Of course my numbers refer to the US.

          I was replying to Blazer who had been talking about the US when he said "The U.S.A's most prosperous time was in the 50's ….."

          • mac1

            "Of course my numbers refer to the US." Of course. Anyone reading your reference could see that. I was just pointing out the NZ parallel, which was of high top end rates.

            Sorry, Alwyn, but we're not after you all the time. 😉 Comments earlier had had a NZ context. IIRC, the tax reductions of the Eighties under Douglas were justified by him as the high earners spent lots of energy in successful tax avoidance, and the lowered top rate to 33% coupled with a much harder to avoid GST was designed to counter that.

            "It was in the 1980s that one of NZ’s richest men (Bob Jones) commented that for the rich, paying tax was optional – because they always had the option of structuring their affairs to grow their capital and live off it rather than generating current income and paying tax on it." https://taxworkinggroup.govt.nz/sites/default/files/2018-09/twg-subm-3976734-peter-rankin.pdf

  5. Jackel 5

    It must be nice to be some. After all, all they have to do is be fortunate enough to own something that makes their money for them. No wonder they have plenty of time to piddle around avoiding tax. Btw there's no risk involved if you do your homework properly.

  6. adam 6

    Is it because they worked out the Hamptons are flat, and won't protect them from the pitch forks?

    But why both with tax reform, if the state is just going to just keep funding a out of control military which is killing us all with it's carbon foot print.

  7. dv 7

    Transaction tax.

  8. Adrian Thornton 8

    Eat the Rich….

    Probably the greatest UK PM they never had J.Corbyn was publicly always against even the existence of billionaires…which is actually the correct starting point for this conversation.

    Jeremy Corbyn is right: billionaires and poverty should not coexist


    • Tricledrown 8.1

      Very admirable ideals but big money controls the media.

      The murdocracy will destroy any socialist moves.

  9. kejo 9

    Starving Afghanis, Vaxxing the world, Funding clean energy, etc. etc. Any one of the worlds top six billionaires could afford to solve these problems, or at least have a decent go at them and not even have to sell a single one of their gold plated dildos, They,re just not decent enough.

  10. Blade 10

    It would seem from the above most think they have a moral RIGHT to thieve other peoples assets.

    I have no problem with wealthy people wanting to be taxed more; good on them. But what about wealthy people who don't want to be taxed more?

    • Craig H 10.1

      Taxation isn't theft.

      • Blade 10.1.1


        • Ad

          Because in New Zealand it's an elected arrangement.

          • Blade

            That was thrust on us at birth…in return for dwindling services and care.

            • arkie

              So was capitalism, are you prepared to label that theft too? Because it is.

              • Blade

                I don't think that's a good analogy?:

                ”An economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”

                And theft?

                • arkie

                  Profit necessitates wage theft.

                  I work for a business, they pay me less than than I earn for the business. There's their profit, exploiting my labour, it's theft.

                  • Blade

                    No, it's not. You can walk. No one is holding a gun to your head. You can even start your own business.

                    I once worked for a business. I worked out that in the first 2 hours of a Monday morning I had paid for my wages. The rest of the week was my free labour for the business.

                    I was a socialist in those day. That realisation made me angry. It took a few years to understand that it was just a perception, whether right or wrong, and that I had choices.

                    • arkie

                      Having the choice to walk away from exploitation doesn't stop it from being exploitation.

                      That you stopped perceiving the theft of your wages just demonstrates your choice to submit to exploitation by your employer.

                      Ultimately we all must do this as we are required to pay for the things we need to live, but you're not better off by ignoring the wage theft that underpins capitalism, just makes you useful for the capitalists.

                  • Gezza

                    I work for a business, they pay me less than than I earn for the business. There's their profit, exploiting my labour, it's theft.

                    I think that's far too simplistic a statement to be a valid claim. Sure, there are plenty of businesses with owners and executives paying themselves (& some investors) far too much and their employees far too little to be considered a fair wage.

                    But if every business paid their employees exactly what they earned for the business there wouldn't be any profit so no available capital for inventory, warehousing & office rental, office staff, business systems etc.

                    It's working out what is a fair rate of payment for employees vs owners, execs, investors where a too-unregulated market fails the workers.

                    • arkie

                      Okay, sure, it’s too simplistic, but so is ‘taxation is theft’.

                      What doesn’t change is that profit is extraction of value, and it ends up concentrating it into the pockets of the capitalists. There’s no disputing that.

                      But even if we accept that we must be exploited so we can earn, why isn’t more said and done about the huge amount of actual wage theft?

                      Each year millions of workers across the country are victims of wage theft—meaning they are paid less than the full wages to which they are legally entitled. Between 2017 and 2020, more than $3 billion in stolen wages was recovered on behalf of workers

                      This staggering amount represents just a small portion of wages stolen from workers across the country. And while wage theft impacts workers broadly, it disproportionately affects low-wage workers, many of whom already are struggling to make ends meet. Wage theft also disproportionately impacts women, people of color, and immigrant workers because they are more likely than other workers to be in low-wage jobs. Finally, these stolen wages hurt local economies and tax revenues.


                    • Gezza

                      @ arkie

                      But even if we accept that we must be exploited so we can earn, why isn't more done about the huge amount of actual wage theft?

                      I note that's a report on the situation in the US. Although we see news reports of the same situations occurring here in Kiwiland too, when bad employers are finally caught & prosecuted.

                      I agree more should be done to ensure that these situations don't arise and where they are found they are dealt with harshly. It usually boils down to the reluctance of exploited workers to make waves because they’re not the brightest & don't know what they're entitled to, and/or they are unlawful immigrants working illegally, and/or they come from countries where that kind of exploitation is common so it's not that unusual a situation for them.

                      Government agencies charged with investigating such cases are usually under-resourced.

                      It probably happened less in NZ when there was compulsory unionism.

                  • Tiger Mountain

                    Yes. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels developed The Theory of Surplus Value to help explain how employers really make a profit. It is primarily not due to pricing, but paying workers less than the values they create with their physical and intellectual Labour.

            • Tricledrown

              Blade because taxes have gone down less money is available for services and care.

              • Blade

                I don't think its all about tax take. I reckon it's more about how tax money is ill spent by all political parties.

            • Ad

              No longer dwindling: Over 2 years New Zealand has spent more public money per capita sustaining economic growth and social cohesion than all but a few developed nations on earth.

              Arguably on the current polling, there is no stronger social contract in the world.

        • Craig H

          Because collective decisionmaking is currently agreed to be delegated to elected representatives and promulgated through laws. People are not required to live under the collective umbrella of our system, but as long as they do, it comes with the requirements to follow those rules including paying taxes and those agreed rules also include enforcement, and the benefits of collective protection and defense among other things.

          People are welcome to leave NZ or even just subsist in the bush if they particularly want to minimise obligations.

      • mikesh 10.1.2

        Property is theft, according to Proudhon.

    • millsy 10.2

      Taxes pay for social services like health care, education etc.

      I note that most countries with lower taxes have absolutely no public health services to speak of, and that those who cannot afford health care are just left to die.

      I also note that National shut scores of hospitals to pay for tax cuts in the 1990's.

      • Blade 10.2.1

        Did I ever have a choice not to pay tax in return for not accessing public services?

        Why not give people a tax break for taking out private insurance and education?

        ''I note that most countries with lower taxes have absolutely no public health services to speak of, and that those who cannot afford health care are just left to die.''

        Are these third world nations you speak of?

        ''I also note that National shut scores of hospitals to pay for tax cuts in the 1990's.''

        I may be wrong but I don't remember National closing scores of hospitals.

        • millsy

          Quite frankly, if you oppose public services, you are an enemy of all that is good and decent in society.

        • Obtrectator

          "I may be wrong but I don't remember National closing scores of hospitals."

          They didn't. The tax cuts were paid for by shoving lots more responsibilities on to local government bodies, who to discharge them then had to either get themselves into ruinous levels of debt or increase rates by unacceptable percentages.

        • Incognito

          I may be wrong but I don't remember National closing scores of hospitals.

          They did.

          In the 1990s major reforms to the health sector by the government led to the closure or downsizing of many general hospitals, particularly smaller ones in rural areas. Local communities fought against many closures, usually unsuccessfully.


          Grave business

          In 1998 the Alliance Party planted 54 white crosses on the lawn of the Stratford Hospital in Taranaki, which closed the same year. The crosses represented hospitals that had closed between 1984 and 1998. Party member and Parliamentary candidate Kevin Campbell said, ‘[W]e’re talking about the slow death of our public health system and this is a way to really show people what’s happening.’

          The National government separated health providers from funders in 1993, and the Area Health Boards were turned into Crown Health Enterprises (Hospital and Health Services from 1996). They operated like businesses and competed for contracts with four separate funding agencies called Regional Health Authorities. Many hospitals were closed during this period. [my italics]


      • Tricledrown 10.2.2

        National cut the health budget by 20% from 2008 to 2017 by their sinking lid policy of not increasing funding per head of population.National made a big hoo ha over a $100 million here and there of health spending yet that was less than inflation and no extra funding forthe 20% increase in population

        For Tax cuts in election year (election bribes)with user pays for the poor .

  11. Scott 11

    What I can never understand is why the 90% don't vote for the rich to pay more as it would be beneficial to the 90%

    • Blazer 11.1

      'If Voting Made a Difference, They Wouldn't Let Us Do It' -Mark Twain.

    • Gosman 11.2

      You are assuming it would be beneficial to the 90%

      • Blade 11.2.1

        Exactly. Every action has a reaction. If the wealthy closed down major businesses, it's not the rich that would initially be affected – it's the 90%.

        • Blazer

          That's what happened in…Venezuela…and that's how sanctions hurt…the poorest.

          • Gosman

            Sanctions don't really hurt the poorest in Venezuela or at least not as much as the government policies do.

            • Blazer

              Don't know how you arrived at that conclusion.

              The U.S wanted the worlds biggest oil reserves and tried to invoke regime change but were …foiled.

              The C.I.A stooge Guaido was even recognised by the U.S as Venezuelas president and endorsed by their vassals.

              Russia with military protection for Maduro and Iran with supermarket stocks helped the country withstand the….sanctions.

    • Craig H 11.3

      In some countries like Norway, they have.

  12. Tricledrown 12

    Venezuela it's OK when their is a murderous corrupt right wing dictatorship in power but a left wing govt / dictatorship no go.

  13. Tiger Mountain 13

    A few big names missing from the signatories. If you believe billionaires want to pay tax at all apart from special pleading for being allowed to continue their pillage…

    Adrian above is onto it–the parasitic squillionaire bludger class should be retired for good in, their entirety. Don’t put put them up against the wall though, exile them to Branson’s island with a generous monthly stipend equivalent to the US minimum wage.

    • mikesh 13.1

      The wealthy get kudos from donating to large charitable foundations, but there is no kudos to be had from paying taxes.

  14. Foreign waka 14

    One can only hope that those big earners will pay their fair share. For NZ that means a big increase.

    If this article is correct, NZ has currently 368172 main beneficiaries on a job seeker or other support payment. This is 11.7 % of the working age population. Not 3.2 % unemployment as is so eagerly reported. Lies and statistics.


    • Craig H 14.1

      That article is the usual misunderstanding of official statistics. His general point about how unemployment rates are calculated could be made of every comparison to NZ unemployment rates in the last 30 years as Stats NZ use the standard OECD definition.

      One point which he ignored is that in the past, we had a sickness benefit, but that was combined with the dole to make Jobseeker's Support, so now the number and % are higher because they include people who in the past would have been on sickness benefits.

    • Gezza 14.2

      Currently, 368,172 Kiwis are the recipient of a main benefit, 11.7 per cent of the working-age population, whether it be Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support or Supported Living.

      The above figure includes those on Sole Parent Support & Supported Living benefits.

      This para might give a better idea of the unemployment rate?

      …The bulk of today’s beneficiaries are on Jobseeker Support, which has rocketed from 123,042 four years ago, to 187,989 today. That’s a 53 per cent increase. As a proportion of the working-age population, it has leapt from 4.1 per cent to 6.0 per cent.

      But I note Craig H’s comment above & don’t know how easy it is to measure the true level of unemployment these days. This seems as good a way as any.

  15. KJT 15

    Note. The difference between NZ and countries which have CGT.
    May be an image of 6 people and text that says "Global house price index October 2021 Q1 1980 =100 Government ignores Tax Working Group reccomendations around property housing. Jacinda Ardern confrm Labour wants house prices to continue rising. New Zealand H Labour Green FIRST 3000 2500 N act/ 2000 Australia Labour 서부한시 FIRST 1500 U.K. Canada 1000 1980 United States 1990 500 2000 Germany 2010 100 |2020"

    • Ad 15.1

      What features of an NZ CGT beyond the 10 year Bright Line Test and the writeoff changes would make a difference?

      New Zealand has such a thin economy – one leg of which is housing ownership – that on reflection Ardern's call was right for where we are now.

      • arkie 15.1.1

        The proposed CGT that would exclude the family home would have no real impact on owner-occupiers.

        Is the ‘leg’ is home ownership though? We have the lowest level of home ownership in 70 years.

        Our economy is propped up by ownership of other peoples homes, speculative real estate investment. House hoarding.

        • Ad

          Answer the question then.

          • arkie

            Taxing the income made when selling property would disincentivise those types of investments. It's not rocket science, or brain surgery, people invest in property because for 30+ years capital gains are a tax free income, demand keeps prices high, reduce demand, prices will lower.

            I note you edited your comment to change it to 'housing ownership', very cunning.

            • mikesh

              If a property worth a million dollars is sold for a million dollars, where is the "income"? There may have been a capital gain but one can't take a capital gain to the supermarket and spend it on groceries; capital gain is capital, and capital is usually spent on investment. Investments should yield income, which IS taxable.

              • pat

                Rising equity is indeed taken to the car/boat dealerships and many other traders ( perhaps not the supermarket directly)….increased consumer spending is the goal of the 'wealth effect'.

                Unfortunately it is activity provided by debt.

      • KJT 15.1.2

        Our rapidly rising land prices prove that "call" was wrong.

        A partial capital gains tax that is fairly easily bypassed, is no substitute for a suite of measures including a real CGT, to stop the favouring of “investment” in land for capital gains.

        It is not just housing that is affected. Our entire economy suffers because to much money goes to banks and land speculators. Whole business sectors depend on rising land prices, not productivity!

        Spiralling land prices add to business costs, for every business that is not "farming capital gains".

        We have the recent examples of businesses failing because rents are such a high proportion of their costs. I know local businesses where commercial rents are over half their monthly bills. Commercial landlords justify that, of course, by the high valuations for the underlaying land.

        Do you really think most of our net national income going to bank owners and land speculators, is sustainable?

        • mikesh

          It is not just housing that is affected. Our entire economy suffers because to much money goes to banks and land speculators. Whole business sectors depend on rising land prices, not productivity!

          Quite right. But in blaming speculators you are putting the cart before the horse. If property prices were not rising speculators would not be interested.

          We have the recent examples of businesses failing because rents are such a high proportion of their costs. I know local businesses where commercial rents are over half their monthly bills. Commercial landlords justify that, of course, by the high valuations for the underlaying land.

          I agree that this is not a satisfactory situation. I rather like the Opportunies Party's proposal of levying a tax based on the "risk free rate of return" where properties are not being used for the purpose of obtaining taxable income. However, the problem seems to be too many people chasing a limited amount of land.

          Do you really think most of our net national income going to bank owners and land speculators, is sustainable?

          Limiting the banks' capacity for creating money would probably help.

    • dv 15.2

      The different colours are countries?

      What countries do the colours represent?

  16. pat 16

    The question of tax is both a simple and difficult one…..those with the wealth need to pay it and that is where the difficulties begin,

    We have had 3 plus decades of reduced tax take that has enabled wealth accumulation in a small portion of society and now we have little capacity to fund that which we need….and oddly (because the numbers should support it) we appear to lack the will to enact that claw back from those who have disproportionately benefited.

    If we want it then we need to fight for it…it wont be willingly given, despite the rhetoric from the Davos crowd.

    • Ad 16.1

      "Little capacity to fund what we need"?

      Government has just spent over $70 billion in 2 years over what it usually spends.

      • pat 16.1.1


        • Ad

          So the government doesn't need to raise taxes, even in a crisis.

          So you're just left with the levelling argument. You would have to run an argument along the lines of: the egalitarian New Zealand was in part caused by the massive income tax levels.

          Go for it.

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  • Stubbing out tobacco smuggling
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  • Prime Minister to visit United States
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  • Boost for tourism networks as borders open
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  • Law changes passed stopping tax evasion on water-pipe tobacco
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  • Andrew Little Budget 2022 post-Budget health speech, Auckland, 20 May 2022
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  • Prime Minister: Wellbeing Budget 2022 speech
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  • Funding certainty for quality public media
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  • Budget 2022 supports resilient and sustainable cultural sector
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  • Paving the way for better outcomes for disabled people
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  • Primary sector backed to grow and innovate
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  • A booster for RNA research and development
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  • Unleashing business potential across NZ
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  • Securing the wellbeing of Pacific communities
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  • A health system that takes care of Māori
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