The longer the New Zealand election campaign goes on the more supposed Jacindamainia evaporates. This is because voters are now looking at the manifesto of Labour and Jacinda Ardern and are concerned about the impact her policies will have on them. As Prime Minister Bill English himself stated in one of the debates “Now the stardust has settled, you’re starting to see the policy”.
Ardern’s policies largely consist of new taxes or consideration of new taxes to fund extravagant policies such as free university education. It has earned her the nickname Taxcinda.
First there was the water tax imposed to pay for New Zealand’s polluted waterways but in reality, it will hurt New Zealand’s farmers who the heart of its economy. They also want to stop making agriculture exempt from that nation’s Emissions Trading Scheme, a double whammy.
The attitude of Labour to this policy was quite callous in that the farmers never vote Labour so it won’t cost them electorally. However that hasn’t stopped the farmers expressing their outrage with a protest in Jacinda’s hometown of Morrinsville. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was heckled by the farmers for refusing to rule out supporting a Labour government.
Then there is the regional fuel tax supposedly to pay for infrastructure around Auckland. There is also Labour’s promise to reverse the National government’s tax cuts which have already been legislated. Not satisfied with putting extra taxes essential commodities Jacinda Ardern has also flirted with several other taxes. These include a capital gains tax, inheritance tax and land tax.
It seemed it never crossed Jacinda’s mind that promising to tax everything might be a bit unpopular with people who are concerned about the cost of living and the effect it may have on the economy.
It has given the National Party ammunition to attack Labour and Ardern for their tax agenda whose rise in the polls appeared unstoppable. The polls have now swung back the other way with one poll putting National far in the front again, when all the polls are aggregated together it is a result which will go down to the wire.
As a result of the backlash to their avalanche of taxing proposals Labour announced they would convene a tax working group after the election to explore other taxation options however none would be implemented without going to an election first.
Nevertheless, it has not placated those who still view Labour as the tax and spend party. Jacinda is open about the fact she does not view the market liberalisation of the 1980s as a positive development claiming that neo-liberalism has failed. The online world has been particularly savage to Jacinda’s tax announcement including a meme page springing up called Comrade Jacinda.
The general mood of the electorate with regard to the National government over the past nine years is that it has managed the economy well and balanced the budget but are wanting government to fix the growing social problems in New Zealand. This faith in government is of course concerning given governments around the worlds failed attempts to solve society’s ills.
Because of this mindset from voters the National Party have added to their agenda greater spending on health services and basic welfare with the message that it is only possible with a strong economy and a responsible government.
It would appear they have also formed the view that now the economy is strong and the budget is in surplus then government spending can be a bit more liberal. Of course, being Labour-lite never works out well.
If Labour loses on Saturday night it should communicate to them and centre-left parties around the world that if you promise taxing times that will take a toll on your vote. However, the opposite result could embolden further the renewed push for big government as we have seen with popularity of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. It is an election that all political observers should watch closely.