Whaleoil transcript: Guyon Espiner & Marama Davidson on the Greens’ position on CGT

Guyon Espiner for Radio NZ

Guyon:

The green party co-leader, Marama Davidson wants a capital gains tax to be just the start of wide-ranging tax reform. Speaking at the party’s summer policy conference yesterday, Marama Davidson told members that resistance to attacks on capital gains is coming from a wealthy elite who are holding the country’s political system hostage. She joins me now in the Auckland studio, tena koe, good morning.

Marama:

Ata marie, Guyon.

Guyon:

So, the capital gains tax as proposed by the tax working group – you are supporting that in its entirety, are you?

Marama:

What I wanna see is the burden removed from low income households and the redistribution of wealth cause what is happening at the moment, I said yesterday, two men own more than 30% of our poorest household’s and people in adult working population, adult population in this country. That’s wrong.

Guyon:

Is that useful though, as a metric?

Marama:

Well what is useful…

Guyon:

Well, I mean if you were to walk… if you were to walk into a university of 10,000 students, all of whom had debts, then Marama Davidson, homeowner and politician would have more net wealth than 10,000 people. So, so I could write a headline saying “Green MP has more wealth than 10,000 people.” I mean that’s dramatic, but is it useful?

Marama:

And that’s why the greens would want to see a tax on people like myself to make sure that we can put it back into public housing, public hospitals, public schools, and so I include myself on a salary, we said a couple of elections ago, salaries above $150,000 on a 40% tax rate, for example.

Guyon:

That’s not being proposed at all here, is it? We’re not… in fact Labour ruled out a rise to the top tax rate ah… for the cap… for the tax working group’s deliberations.

Marama:

Yeah, and so I want people to be really clear where the Greens stand on issues, and that we want to remove the burden of low-income households who are struggling to just live just ordinary lives, pay the rent, put the healthy kai on the table and pay the expensive winter power bill.

Guyon:

How does… how does the um… how does the capital gains tax proposal do that?

Marama:

And so, being able to feed back into a public housing programme, for example, is how we can take the burden off high rising costs of rents and homes…

Guyon:

But how does the capital gains proposal do that?

Marama:

So, it’s about getting that tax in and funnelling back into um… public services that will take that burden off squeezed housing…

Guyon:

It’s not though, it’s a revenue neutral proposal.

Marama:

And so, it’s how we can make sure it’s… it’s actually also how we can ah… lim… ah… stop hous… stop an unregulated housing market from… from higher house costs…

Guyon:

But… but the thing is, you are not going to get more tax revenue if it’s a revenue neutral proposal, are you?

Marama:

Yeah, sure. So that’s why we said it’s the start. It’s the start of a… regulating the housing market that has caused a burden on low income households. An unregulated housing market has absolutely created a burden on high rents and high housing costs and that’s why…

Guyon:

It’s not an unregulated housing market though…

Marama:

Oh, it’s pretty sh… it’s pretty crap actually when you’ve got someone who can own hundreds of homes or even 10, or even 10 homes while we’ve got a man who sits outside parliament every night for the past couple of weeks sleeping on the streets. But even… but even more…

Guyon:

So, so…but hang on, because details are important here because… your rhetoric… to actually make any um…  meaningful difference to people it has to be able to be implemented. What are you saying? Are you saying that you… you would want to limit the number of peo… homes that people own, for example?

Marama:

Well, it’s just not right that we can have speculators who can own hundreds of homes, but even 20 homes, 10 homes while we’ve got people struggling to pay the rent for a home, while we’ve got people living in cars, my local park in Manurewa in cars, while we’ve got people living on the streets. And so that has to be rebalanced and that’s what the Greens stand for proudly, that we want to rebalance and take the housing (indistinct).

Guyon:

But how do you do that?

Marama:

That’s what I said. It’s a start to regulate the housing market with a capital gains tax. It’s also why a tax rate on wealthy home… wealthy households, is really important. But overall, Guyon, if I can just say, overall, it’s about rebalancing an unsustainable gap between people who are struggling and people who are not.

Guyon:

So… so if you are so concerned about that why did you sign up to, and indeed even um… originate budget responsibility rules that specifically cap how much governments can spend, and that means capping how much you can spend on the people that you are so worried about?

Marama:

Yeah, that’s why I’m glad our party are reviewing that position right now, and our party will have a look at whether, you know, having surpluses is at all appropriate. I don’t think it’s appropriate, Guyon. I’ll be really, really clear. I don’t think it’s appropriate to have surpluses while we have floodings happening in countries, where we’ve got floods happening, where we’ve got homelessness, I don’t think it’s appropriate that we’re holding onto surpluses in that way.

Guyon:

So… so you’re saying this morning that you don’t agree with the budget responsibility rules?

Marama:

So, so (sighs) I was very clear um… in my co-leader campaign…

Guyon:

Yeah.

Marama:

And that…

Guyon:

What is your position then?

Marama:

My position is that I need to ensure that the process of review with our party takes the lead… the members take the lead, and I don’t agree with surpluses…

Guyon:

But when you stand up and rail against the top 1% and talk about all the problems that we’ve got… how can that be even remotely credible when you are signing up to budget responsibilities rules?

Marama:

Which is why I’ve been very clear that I don’t think surpluses are appropriate. But I also need to let the membership lead that review process.  I… my personal opinion, Guyon, which is not separate, is that I don’t think those surpluses and arbitrary debt targets of GDP are appropriate when we have got crises right now.

Guyon:

Okay. Just finally, what is the negotiation process with Labour? Are you in a negotiation over the capital gains tax or have you just said, look, go for it?

Marama:

Everything is in negotiation. Everything, every little thing, every big thing, and clearly part of negotiation is putting up our public opinion and our public values on where we stand which I did yesterday.

Guyon:

Thanks very much for your time, do appreciate your coming into the studio today as well.


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