Time for a Dismount, Taxing car parks seems Pretty Vacant

Pretty Vacant from the Sex Pistol’s album Flogging a Dead Horse seems appropriate.

Despite Bill English and his factotum in the blogosphere both declaring that the Car park tax was a good thing there are signs that the government is set to dismount the dead horse that Bill and Peter are flogging.

Colin Espiner calls this National’s light bulb moment:

There comes a time in any government’s term in office when it does something so unbelievably stupid, so mind-bendingly dumb, so ridiculously petty and so clearly idiotic that you know it’s losing the plot.

I remember well when Labour jumped the shark. It wasn’t the anti-smacking legislation – that had a huge impact on its core support but at least it could argue it was doing the right thing, even it wasn’t popular at the time. 

And it wasn’t even the decision to regulate what schools could sell in tuckshops. Granted, it was ridiculously petty and mind-bendingly dumb, but probably not completely idiotic. Labour could, and did, claim that students needed more help in making healthy eating choices.

No, what sealed Labour’s fate, I reckon, was the ill-advised (and later abandoned) plan to regulate the flow of water from shower heads, and to ban lightbulbs that didn’t meet certain energy specifications.

That was when Labour’s “nanny state” tag became attached like a tar baby that Helen Clark just couldn’t shake.

National rightly campaigned on a promise to rid voters of such a pestilent and petty administration, and to restore sanity and a little less heavy-handed regulation to our lives.

So what, you might well ask, is the Government doing trying to tax the inner-city car parks provided by employers for their staff? Particularly when John Key specifically ruled out such a tax when he was opposition finance spokesman back in 2005?

Meanwhile it looks like my snitches in Wellington were right when they whispered to me that Peter Dunne was called to stand on the naughty spot and instructed to dismount from the dead horse or it would be shot from under him.

Senior Government officials are understood to be distancing themselves from a controversial car park tax that has sparked fierce opposition from business groups and unionists.

The proposal to extend a fringe benefit tax (FBT) of almost 50 per cent to employer-provided onsite parking was the brainchild of United Future leader and Revenue Minister Peter Dunne.

The tax, which would apply only to workers in the Auckland and Wellington CBDs, has been widely described as petty and discriminatory.

Now National Party officials at the very highest levels are understood to be trying to shift the heat to Dunne, who is currently out of the country.

“Points are being made that this was not a National Party initiative,” said a source close to the FBT Action Group, a coalition of interested parties fighting against the new tax.

The source said the group had received “positive communications” from officials, who had also expressed real concern over the increased cost of compliance for businesses.

An independent report presented to Parliament’s finance and expenditure committee yesterday estimated the extra costs would add up to more than $30 million, dwarfing the expected $17m of actual revenue generated.

The National Party was aware that the FBT issue could become the equivalent of Labour’s infamous attempt to regulate shower-head flows and lightbulb types, the source said.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.