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Harawira: Taxation Bill

Taxation (Depreciation, Payment Dates Alignment, FBT and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005

Hone Harawira, Member for Te Tai Tokerau

Thursday 16 March 2006


Madam Speaker, I’m actually on the Finance and Expenditure Committee but still I come to this Bill today, with a number of questions.

Not about the best date for the subsidy for payroll agents; or whether the first of April is a good day for the GST due date change.

Our concern is whether this new Bill will mean a good day for all citizens of Aotearoa.

And when I talk about a good day, I’m talking about a day when this Parliament gives as much time and energy to the health, wealth and well-being of low-income families and workers as we do to international capital.

Madam Speaker, let’s stop tinkering around with tax-write-off levels, and start talking about the nearly two million taxpayers getting less than $25,000 a year. And let’s keep the talk short, and get to the action.

You know Madam Speaker, most people in my electorate have a weekly wage that is less than my tax bill, and that’s a frightening thought. Why?

Because we, in this house, live in a world no longer connected to the reality of our voters.

More importantly, we live in a world where hundreds of thousands of our own people no longer have a stake in the world we talk about here.

If I have to fly to Whangarei when I go home, I hitch-hike back to Kaitaia so that I can hook up with the people I represent. And when they ask, and I tell them how much I get, most of them can’t even understand how much money that is. The inequities of this society are a crying shame.

GAMBLING

And that’s why so many poor people, those who cannot afford it, turn to Powerball, Keno, Strike, and Lotto. To scramble out of the poverty trap.

So I shake my head at the thought that this Bill is actually going to give tax breaks - not to the poor, but to those who run the gambling machines.

It seems this Government is willing to reward pokie operators and loan sharks, while ignoring the plight of families on benefits; despite the huge impact that gambling has on the poor.

In fact, Lorna Dyall says from a Maori perspective, gambling is a social hazard which should be managed in the same way as we manage biological and chemical hazards.

FBT

Madam Speaker, I’m not interested in tinkering with Estate and Gift Duties, tax administration, and Goods and Service Tax.

And yes, we support moves to simplify fringe benefit tax to enable a more simple process of book-keeping.

But still it’s hard to understand why FBT paranoia stops people from using their iwi vehicles to pick up kaumatua and kuia during the weekend, and it’s hard to watch Resource Teachers of Maori up north and down the coast spending their own money on travel because of the pitiful reimbursements they get when they try to claim FBT.

It’s silly, it’s non-productive, and we need to design systems which promote community support rather than impede it.

GPI

Madam Speaker as a dutiful member of the Finance and Expenditure Committee I sat through four mind-numbing hours of hearings about tax depreciation, depreciation for plant and equipment, for buildings and so on.

And I thank my colleagues, particularly Mr Gordon Copeland, for their diligence in monitoring every clause in this Bill.

But the biggest challenge before this Parliament is to restructure the current system of direct taxation, and to consider the role of tax in our economy.

Let’s move away from our fixation on GDP, and let’s instead think about GPI, a Genuine Progress Index, to measure our activities.

Let’s use GPI to accentuate the positive, in a community:

- where the benefits, including the potential for wealth creation, are owned by the citizens of our nation;

- where tax revenues and government expenditures are targeted at positive results;

- and where we can deal with the challenges of climate change, over-population, over consumption, wastage, peak oil, oil depletion, and the growth of GDP.

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of a ground-breaking speech accurately forecasting the 1970 peaking of United States oil production.

These are the challenges and the opportunities we should be turning our minds to - like how do we maintain current roads and increase public and freight transport through a national electrified and city light rail system; how we reduce the gap between low income taxpayers and the average income; and how we raise the minimum wage to at least $12.50

MAORI AND TAXES

Madam Speaker, taxes have always been a huge issue for Maori, both inside this House and out.

Rongomaiwahine MP, Tiaki Omana, MP for Eastern Maori in 1943, raised many of the same issues we talk about today. Omana noted that:

- settlements should not be reached without full and proper investigations;

- independent Maori efforts to improve local economies were being frustrated by the inability to raise loans; and that

- without access to investment capital or a sustainable economic base, Maori people could not break out of the cycle of subsistence living.

So these are not new issues here.

Madam Speaker, reducing compliance and tax costs is also an issue very relevant to movers and shakers within Maoridom.

We have spoken proudly in this House on the unique contribution that Mäori enterprise and entrepreneurship has made to our nation's economy.

And I point out that many Maori people are dedicated to securing economic independence through business activity, and this Bill proposes a number of changes which will help small businesses.

CONCLUSION

Finally, Madam Speaker, I return to the bigger picture again.

Like many other pieces of recent legislation, this Bill approaches a significant issue in a piecemeal fashion.

Last month we dealt with the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Bill, and in this Bill today, we see many of the same themes.

While other countries such as USA, EU, India, Brazil, China, Singapore, Chile, protect their national interests, our government continues to travel down a road of ‘open access’.

There are new groups challenging globalisation, including the Zapatistas I referred to last night, the Subcomandate Marcos, the Chittaroopa Palit from the Indian Narmada Valley and the Brazilian Sem Terra people.

Similar challenges are also being made here by Pakeha academic Jane Kelsey who reminds us that we are “vulnerable in a grossly unequal global economy” which “eliminates many of our options to respond to the challenges that confront us”.

We all have a part to play in ensuring a fair and equitable system of gathering the revenue necessary for efficiently managing our economy.

We need to think local, while respecting the big picture; to encourage growth and productivity; to encourage savings; and to ensure our tax system works to help all of our citizens and not just the rich.

In closing, Madam Speaker, I remind the House of the words of Nelson Mandela who said:

Political power should be the basis

for the economic empowerment of the people

I urge that we exercise that power wisely.


ENDS

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