Whats the connection?

This is the transcript of the best slaying in a long time.

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National—Pakuranga): Never in the history of this Parliament has the Opposition had so many issues to use. In fact, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, never have so many people had so many issues and so little time in which to take them apart—be it the Taito Phillip Field inquiry, which was to have taken 11 days, and now, 11 months or something later, has still not come to fruition; be it allowing terrorists into the country and then, after many months, saying that at least we found them; be it the energy crisis that Auckland faced on Monday; or be it Television New Zealand’s (TVNZ’s) absolutely wonderful clip about the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues, a responsibility that most people in her electorate did not even know she had.

But I say to this House that the best of the lot—because it is possible to pick only one in 5 minutes—was the Michael Cullen interview with Guyon Espiner. I say to those members who have not seen the interview that they should go on the web. It is still on the TVNZ website; it is there for playing. Members of this House will know that politicians, when they are off the record, will normally be far more candid and more honest than when they are on the record, because one has to be reasonably circumspect when one is on the record. That does not apply to Winston Peters, who is neither at any time. Regardless of that, the Minister of Finance was unaware that the camera was rolling.

Members should listen to what he said; it is wonderful. He said—and I have to get this right, because there are some breaks and pauses here—“And the Dominion Post leads with the story ‘$8.5 billion surplus and still no tax cuts’. So? What’s the connection?”. Well, one could ask anybody that. Has anybody ever realised what having a surplus means? It means that one is taking money from the people over and above what one is spending. People in their households know that if they have $100,000 and they spend $75,000 in the year on running the place, they have a $25,000 surplus. That is what they have. But Michael Cullen says: “So? What’s the connection?”. I want to ask Mr Peters something, because he seems to be going on about not understanding. I ask him this.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Lassie.

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: One cannot call him Lassie; that is not parliamentary. I ask Mr Peters what size the surplus has to get to in order to be—

Craig Foss: Supersize me.

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: —a super-sized, upsized surplus. What if it was $15 billion? Would Dr Cullen still say: “So? What’s the connection?”. That is right. Members should work with me on this one. What if it was a $20 billion surplus? What would Dr Cullen say?

Hon Members: “So? What’s the connection?”

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: That is what Dr Cullen said on TVNZ, and I sat there thinking I could not believe he had said that. I cannot believe that Dr Cullen does not know that the general public out there knows that if the Government is running deficits, it is very hard to give tax cuts—I understand that—but that when a Government is running surpluses, that is when the time comes to do so.

Dr Cullen tries to blur the margins by saying there is not really a surplus, because the Government is spending a lot of the $8.5 billion on capital expenditure. Well, I say to people again that they should take the household example. If someone has $100,000 of income and $75,000 of expenditure, $25,000 is left, and if that $25,000 is used to buy some investments, can that person now say he or she does not have a surplus? Of course someone cannot say that, because that person has bought a $25,000 asset—possibly a revenue-generating asset—so, on a cash basis, yes, he or she does have a surplus. Dr Cullen is now bringing in expenditure on investments that will last for decades—expenditure on investment in a whole lot of infrastructure, and so on, with value that will last for decades—and saying it actually comes off the surplus. Members should go to the Inland Revenue Department and see whether it will let them take expenditure on their new house as an expense. Members should try to do that. Do members know what the Inland Revenue Department would say? It would say: “So? Where’s the connection?”. That is what the Inland Revenue Department would say. Members would be buying an asset that will appreciate. It has nothing to do with their income.

Dr Cullen showed his true colours. The reason he is so angry now is that he thought the interview was off the record, and he is highly embarrassed. It is no wonder that the Prime Minister wants his scalp.

 


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