Christopher Luxon 'really concerned' about Jacinda Ardern's tax plans, emphasises need for 'results' in pre-Budget speech

Christopher Luxon is "really concerned" about the Prime Minister's tax plans after Jacinda Ardern refused to rule out implementing a wealth tax in the future.

"The Prime Minister campaigned and said as long as she was Prime Minister she would not introduce a wealth tax," the National Party leader said. "What we have seen today is the signalling, I think, of a U-turn."

Ardern wouldn't rule out a future wealth tax on AM on Monday morning, instead saying Labour hadn't formulated its tax policy for the 2023 election. During the 2020 election campaign, Ardern said a wealth tax wouldn't happen under her leadership

Luxon said he was "really concerned about where the Prime Minister is going with it".

Ardern previously ruled out a capital gains tax (CGT) under her leadership and Labour promised no new taxes would be introduced this term, outside of a new top tax rate of 39 percent on income earned over $180,000

In a speech about the tax system last week, Labour's Revenue Minister David Parker said the Government had "no secret plan to introduce a CGT or wealth tax or a deemed income tax, nor others". 

Luxon's comments came after he gave his pre-Budget speech on Monday afternoon, in which he laid out the "foundations of National's economic approach", while also attacking Labour for forgetting the "squeezed middle" and throwing "cash at every problem".

The Opposition leader didn't announce any significant new policies, saying there is "not one big-bang solution" to deliver strong growth. Instead, Luxon outlined five "critical levers of prosperity" which he said are the basis for National's economic plan.

"I'm not going to announce a big policy today and claim it will be 'transformational'," Luxon told attendees at the Employers and Manufacturers Association on Monday. 

"Instead, National's approach is to relentlessly target the big drivers of our economic engine – education & skills, infrastructure, technology, the business environment, and our connections with the world."

Luxon emphasised a need for "results" and to see investment turn into real outcomes.

For example, in education he said New Zealand needs to make better use of information to drive results.

"We need to know which kids are not showing up for class and why. We need to regularly assess every child's progress and report back to parents – so they understand if their kid needs extra help. We need to know which schools are making a difference so others can learn from them.

"If a child can't read or add as well as their peers, we need to know. Otherwise they will spend the next five years sitting at the back of the classroom, feeling excluded and becoming disillusioned."

Luxon didn't reveal any new specific policy.
Luxon didn't reveal any new specific policy. Photo credit: Newshub / Getty.

He accused Labour of going on an "unprecedented spending spree that has achieved very little", something he expects to continue at the Budget when the Government has given itself $6 billion in new operating spending to play with. 

The Government should revisit its Budget plans as it's "very hard to justify" that new spending "in an overheated economy", Luxon said. National would fund its proposed tax cuts - estimated to cost about $1.7 billion - from that new spending allowance. 

"While Labour thinks success comes from more spending, National thinks results for Kiwis are more important," Luxon said. 

"We know that the only way to kick-start our economic engine and grow the pie for us all is to back hard-working Kiwis and businesses up and down the country."

StatsNZ revealed last month that the Consumer Price Index rose 6.9 percent in the year to the end of March, the highest annual increase since 1990. While the Opposition has blamed government spending, the Government says that's largely the result of international factors like COVID supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine.

"Facing a cost of living crisis, a 'squeezed middle' has emerged," Luxon said on Monday. "But rather than addressing the drivers of the cost of living crisis – including the Government's own policies – Labour's approach is to just throw cash at every problem. They're treating symptoms, not causes."

He said the Government has "forgotten" about the "squeezed middle". 

The Government earlier this year slashed fuel excise tax by 25 cents per litre and halved public transport costs. On April 1, a package of benefit rate, minimum wage and tax credit increases came into effect, which the Government said will help low and middle-income families fight rising prices, while the Winter Energy Package returns from May 1. 

Following the latest inflation data being released, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government was focused on getting to the "root causes" of some price increases.

"We are committed to taking action to boost competition in the New Zealand grocery market to ensure Kiwis get a fair price. We are also moving to reduce our dependence on oil by decarbonising our transport fleet, through initiatives like the Clean Car Discount."

Robertson said the Government was taking "a careful, balanced approach to our future spending".