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Sunday Star’s top ten

Written By: - Date published: 4:42 pm, February 6th, 2011 - 23 comments
Categories: Economy - Tags: ,

At a time when so much political journalism is focused on analysis of image management it’s nice to see a major Sunday paper throwing its weight behind a push for some real world issues.

Anthony Hubbard’s piece in the Sunday Star Times today looks at 10 real issues the election should focus on:

1.) Power to the people

Start at the beginning and take away the PM’s power to set the election date. John Key announced last week that the voters will go to the polls on November 26. Why should he decide? The politician who has the most power to sway the outcome of the election also decides its timing: it’s nuts.

I agree but setting a regular date could bring conflicts with other events. Better it the rule is the date is fixed at least a year out. At the risk of being churlish I’d also point out that the British term is five years not four.

2.) Fix the Gap

Do something serious about the gap between the rich and the poor. The evidence is now clear that inequality breeds a wide range of serious social ills, ranging from educational failure to mental and physical health problems and violence. The old argument – make a big pie and don’t worry how it’s sliced – turns out to be dead wrong. So greater equality now has to be put back as an urgent political goal.

Couldn’t agree more. However a Parliamentary Commissioner for Equality is a bit of a cop out. A much more progressive tax system is the only way you’ll fix this gap in a capitalist democracy. We all understood that, left and right, for fifty years before the first ACT fourth Labour government. Why the hell is it so hard to understand now?

3.) Expose politicians’ spending

Drag the MPs into the light by bringing parliament under the Official Information Act.


4.) Turn TVNZ into a public service channel

There is no point in the taxpayers owning a populist television company. The private sector can do that perfectly well, or perhaps even better: TV3 proves it every day.

As I understand it TVNZ makes a better profit than TV3. However public service television is seriously lacking in this country.

5.) Finally, get tough on Big Tobacco

Increase the price of cigarettes by 25% each year, put them all in plain packs, and ban in-store advertising of any kind.

No. Hiking the price on cigarettes is just going to hurt a lot of poor people. Smoking is an addiction – the best way to deal with it is ban it, allow addicts to register and then supply them cigarettes via prescription on a weekly basis. Much the same as the methadone programme.

6.) Hold a referendum on the future of the monarchy

Everyone agrees that the monarchy will disappear in due course. “It’s absurd,” said Helen Clark. “It can’t last forever,” said monarchist John Key.

I doubt it’ll come as any surprise to anyone that I’ve no time for the monarchy but even so this is a lot further down my list than the top ten. And, to be honest, after watching the Supreme Court at work I’m not confident we could make a decent job of becoming a republic.

7.) Bring in a capital gains tax, with the family home exempt

Many have called for a capital gains tax, from the right (Treasury head John Whitehead) to the left (the Greens). Many other western countries have some form of it, yet we continue to insist that it’s “politically impossible”.

Yep. But do it in conjuncture with a significant strengthening of capital market regulations because there’s no point steering investment away from property if it’s just going to end up in Hanover or SCF.

8.) Cut ministers’ salaries by 10%

It’s called leadership. Every time the politicians cut income taxes, the pundits point out how much ministers stand to gain. Here, for once, they would stand to lose.

If we’re going to assume cutting ministers’ salaries is a Good Thing then I’d rather they stood to lose by having to pay more tax. When Phil Goff announced his tax plan that’s in effect exactly what he was talking about doing.

9.) Give a big boost to foreign aid

Our record on this is woeful, and it collides with New Zealanders’ image of themselves as a caring and generous people. In fact, there is a bipartisan approach to aid, as the last 30 years have shown: both National and Labour-led governments are misers.


10.) No more holiday rip-offs

Mondayise Waitangi Day and Anzac Day when they fall on a weekend. Why wouldn’t you? John Key seems to think that allowing the following Monday as a paid holiday would somehow interfere with the solemnity of the occasion


I’ve got to say as Top Tens go it’s a hell of a lot better than that one John Key did on letterman…

23 comments on “Sunday Star’s top ten ”

  1. Kevin Welsh 1

    Big deal.

    And what is Anthony Hubbard and the SST going to do about it? Are they going to go-into-bat for the peasants and put the pressure on this government by questioning the spin and calling the Wanker-in-Chief to account?

    I doubt it.

    Nice post Irish, but I get the same sour taste in my mouth these days whenever I see someone in the media trying to grow a pair.

  2. Rharn 2

    I’d be doing something about tax bludgers as number one.

    • KJT 2.1

      Yeah. we should do something about the half of the wealthiest who do not pay tax.

    • g says 2.2

      rharn by that do you mean the people who have trusts that mean they can lessen their taxable income to avoid tax, and others who use it to avoid paying as much as they could to support their children during seperation?

  3. ianmac 3

    Applaud all 10. But being a pragmatist like John the chance of even raising the questions will be a “Not just now thanks!” That of course should not stop People Power.

  4. DJ 4

    Good job from the SST. These are all issues to think about for both sides. You’ll probably never agree with all that Anthony says but he makes his case.

  5. Jum 5

    New Zealanders caring and generous – crap.

  6. Lanthanide 6

    No. Hiking the price on cigarettes is just going to hurt a lot of poor people. Smoking is an addiction – the best way to deal with it is ban it, allow addicts to register and then supply them cigarettes via prescription on a weekly basis. Much the same as the methadone programme.

    Only if you want to put up with 15-20 years of battling a black market. Look how much resources the police waste on pot at the moment. I also believe that tax revenue from tobacco is greater than the public health resources required to deal with the results from use (at present, anyway, this may change with the aging population) so you’d be curtailing a potential revenue stream – I think that’s why the government stopped at increasing the price by 10% each year.

    It seems public sentiment is slowly creeping towards the decriminalisation of pot and that it will one day probably happen, so this should be thought about when considering drastic changes to tobacco laws.

    If we’re going to assume cutting ministers’ salaries is a Good Thing then I’d rather they stood to lose by having to pay more tax. When Phil Goff announced his tax plan that’s in effect exactly what he was talking about doing.

    I would suggest making MP’s salaries exempt from tax changes. So if the government passes a tax cut, all MP salaries are reduced by the required amount so that they have no net change in after-tax income as a result of the tax cut. Pragmatically this should also be in place if the tax is raised, however the public would see this as special treatment for MPs – they don’t generally get salary increases when tax goes up, so why should MPs. But indexing it like this would avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, as we got in this last round where Key gained thousands of dollars extra per year.

    • SHG 6.1

      Smoking is an addiction – the best way to deal with it is ban it

      Yes, because banning something that grows in the ground always works out SO WELL FOR EVERYONE.

    • Colonial Viper 6.2

      Increase the age at which you are allowed to sell cigarettes by two years, every two years, until you hit say 30. Doesn’t affect any current smokers, and absolutely smokes the industry’s goal of hooking more young smokers every year.

      Also limit pack sizes to 8 cigarettes.

      • Aron Watson 6.2.1

        “Increase the age at which you are allowed to sell cigarettes by two years, every two years, until you hit say 30. Doesn’t affect any current smokers, and absolutely smokes the industry’s goal of hooking more young smokers every year.”

        …and do the same for the drinking age, until it’s 21

      • Lanthanide 6.2.2

        Actually ratcheting up the age like that makes a lot of sense.

        By the time it gets to 24-26 or so, it’ll really lock high-school students out from being able to purchase.

    • Deadly_NZ 6.3

      And when they finally decriminalise pot then they will be able to use the millions they waste to get about 10%of the annual crop, on the real criminals ie: P and Heroin dealers. And speeding drivers. thieving politicians Rich tax evaders.. Oh thats right this is not fiction.

    • Sam 6.4

      You will just add to the illegal drug problem.
      Better to not allow any smoker access to the public health system when he/she succumbs to smoking related diseases.

  7. odysseus 7

    And a wealth tax.
    In terms of social equality the focus on income and consumption taxes miss the point. In order to redistribute wealth, and hence create a more egalitarian society , one needs to tax total wealth . Not left field, it is common in Europe for example.

  8. ak 8

    Read no.2 again brothers and sisters, note the casual confidence, reflect on the impossibility of such a comment in a national paper since around 2006, and be of stout heart!

    And feel that warm breeze wafting leftwards and building, the plastic tory purretry fading and crackling into tawdry, middle-aged, lusting, mincing, asset-selling grotesquerie; flailing for control by slapping giddily at a party already beaming at the likely prospect of sweet, justified utu; and hugging closely to warm old dogs with whispered imprecations and promises of treats should they ostracise the dangerous whelp…

    Or just check out the pic of Mauler Benefit in the society pages of the SST and ‘ave a good larf.

  9. RobertM 9

    Hubbard clearly belongs in the extreme left, level down party with McCarten and Bradford. The Sunday Herald is awful, but I read it because theres no choice. Laws and Mcleod on the star times are among my ultimate beit noirs, dreadful dishonest patronising cowards that believe they can passify the the angry male proletariat with a bit of appeasment and grovelling.

  10. Graham 10

    Rein in the banks until they become what they should be – a public service.

  11. I was hoping one of you was going to post on the SST list.
    I am completely in agreement with Irish re: comments about all of the list topics.

    I know I am one for thinking about unintended consequences a lot, but its beyond time to be debating these points, and time to take action on them – just sort out the side-effects as we go along, because the cure is far better than the disease.

  12. Zaphod Beeblebrox 12

    I’d like to see somebody take an interest in our looming housing crisis. December’s residential construction permits were the lowest since 1965 FFS, what is being done about that?

    Its predictable therefore that young and poor people are going to find rentals in locations accessible to employment impossible to obtain. What prospective employer is going to start up in NZ if they can’t find a labour force?

    The result of all this is that prices of existing stock will skyrocket- what do you think that will do to our current account deficit?

  13. the sprout 13

    great article from AH – all excellent suggestions on questions I’d like to see some policy declarations on.
    perhaps the Goffice could use it as a starting point?

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