Election 2023: National claims to have uncovered Labour's tax plans, ministers refusing to confirm nor deny

The National Party claims to have uncovered part of Labour's tax policy, alleging it includes the removal of GST from fresh fruit and vegetables.

Ministers are refusing to confirm nor deny that's in the party's election policy, with Prime Minister Chris Hipkins saying New Zealanders will just have to wait until Labour releases it. 

Nicola Willis, the National deputy leader and finance spokesperson, said on Thursday that Prime Minister Chris Hipkins "no longer appears to take his Finance Minister seriously", given Grant Robertson has previously raised concerns with the idea.

"I think Labour's caucus is completely divided on tax. You have got them wanting to pursue a wealth tax, a capital gains tax, all sorts of taxes. That's been kiboshed and now they are desperately flaying around looking for something." 

David Parker earlier this week requested he be removed from the Revenue Minister role during the reallocation of portfolios in the wake of the Kiri Allan arrest. He said it was "untenable" for him to remain in the role given he has supported taxing capital and the Prime Minister has ruled out a capital gains or wealth tax.

Parker on Thursday denied he had also resigned over Labour potentially working on a policy of removing GST from fresh food. He then walked away from media ignoring questions, right through a standup his colleague Kelvin Davis was holding with reporters.

Robertson, the Finance Minister, has previously said removing GST from fresh food would be difficult to implement in an effective way.

Speaking to Newshub Nation following the Budget in May, Robertson said taking GST off all food could "start another debate about whether you should take it off takeaways or not".

"Other countries have had this. Is it a cooked chicken or a frozen chicken? You know, you end up in these sorts of debates when actually you can do more by delivering support to people's incomes while getting those competition issues right."

Robertson said it used to be Labour Party policy to remove GST from fresh fruit and vegetables

"It just doesn't deliver the difference. And to be frank, if it's low and middle-income households, you know, there are better ways of us delivering support to them, which is what we've done."

Appearing on Paddy Gower Has Issues on Wednesday night, Hipkins was asked if Labour could remove GST from potatoes so hot chips could be more affordable. 

"More affordable chips would be a very good thing," he replied. "In terms of our GST policy and tax policy, you will have to wait a bit longer."

Speaking to media in Christchurch on Thursday, Hipkins said he understood Willis had "purporting to announce Labour's tax policy", but "she is just going to have to wait and see what it is, the same as everybody else is".

"I am not going to announce National's tax policy," he said. "They have had multiple tax policies in the time that we have been in Government. They can announce their policy. We will announce ours in due course."

Asked why National was announcing Labour's tax policy, Hipkins responded: "They are not."

Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni wouldn't rule out removing GST from fresh food. She said National should concentrate on its tax policy.

"We have already ruled out a capital gains tax and a wealth tax, but we are not talking about other taxes in terms of what is in and what is out."

She didn't say when Labour would announce the party tax policy.

"I think soon… I don't have a date so I will just say soon… we don't have a date yet."

Barbara Edmonds, the new Revenue Minister, also wouldn't confirm or deny Willis was right.

"Every party will have their ability to release their tax policies and ours are coming out in the coming weeks… I'm not going to release our tax policy without the Prime Minister."

She said there are always compliance issues with taxes, but other countries had taken GST off food.

Asked how she understood she knew Labour's policy, Willis replied: "You may have noticed there has been quite a lot of leaks out of the Government lately."

"I understand this will be their policy. I understand there has been debate about this policy. If it is not their policy, it is up to them to say that." 

Te Pāti Māori is campaigning on removing GST from food alongside regulations to limit the ability of supermarkets to hike prices. This policy, which would cost $3.4 billion, is expected to allow families to buy on average "seven weeks of free food per year".