Wealth tax policy shows 'jealousy of the rich', but Greens are right to boost 'unlivable' benefits - Duncan Garner

The Greens' Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) policy announced over the weekend is "nothing more than an envy tax", The AM Show's Duncan Garner says.

The policy, unveiled on Sunday, proposes that each Kiwi is given at least $325 a week to live on - a figure paid for by the Government if they can't earn it elsewhere. It's an attempt to boost the unemployment benefit, which can be as low as $175.48 after tax. 

The GMI would be funded by a new wealth tax, supplemented by two high-income tax brackets and a 1 percent tax on net assets over $1 million, and 2 percent tax over $2 million.

It's this detail, Garner says, that shows the Greens are "jealous of the rich" - though he admits they're right to address benefits.

"This Greens' policy is an envy tax. When you target rich people to hand across to the poor, it's nothing more than an envy tax," he said on Monday morning.

"In saying that, the Greens have a point. Benefit levels in New Zealand are far too low - they're unlivable, especially in the big cities.

"That's why this Government has gone and put [up] that middle benefit for New Zealanders who lose their jobs in COVID - they get twice what the benefit is, because it needs to be liveable.

"The Greens are right about it, they're just not right about how to get the money. They're jealous of the rich... Wealthy people aren't evil, evil people are evil.

"Wealthy people aren't the enemy - they'll hire you."

On Sunday, Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said the current social safety net had "trapped people in poverty by keeping support payments too low and creating complex barriers to getting support".

She said the GMI would simplify New Zealand's welfare system by replacing all working-age benefits, including the student allowance. The Greens also want to replace the Working For Families (WFF) tax credits.

Garner believes benefits need to be addressed - and said if the Government was "transformational in any way", Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern "would've addressed this a long time ago".

Ardern made reducing child poverty one of her key policy promises ahead of the 2017 election, though Stats NZ data released in February shows there's been "no significant change" in material hardship levels since then.

The Greens' GMI policy is similar to the universal basic income policy touted by The Opportunities Party. That policy would see each Kiwi given $13,000 a year in an effort to address flaws in the current tax and welfare system.