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Peter Dunne – Leader's Letter December 1 2006

Peter Dunne – Leader's Letter December 1 2006

Bill Clinton used to talk about a "place called home". British social philosopher Jonathan Sacks wrote a book called "The Politics of Hope". Now John Key says he wants to provide "aspirational" leadership for the National Party.

The common thread is the positive assertion of family and community as not just the base on which our society is founded, but much more as the springboard from which it moves forward. Too often, discussions about the importance of family and community in the life of a country get trapped in the quicksand of nostalgia and trying to restore the past, rather than looking to what might be in the future.

As a modern centre party United Future understands that thoroughly. Supporting families and communities as static bastions of the status quo, does little for the development of our society, and can have the perverse consequence of causing some to question their ongoing relevance as social institutions. Our passion for families places much greater emphasis on the opportunities they can provide their members to grow and make an effective and satisfying contribution to the world around them.

Families are dynamic, providing both the base where members are nurtured and protected when young and vulnerable, and the springboard which inspires them to take their hopes and dreams forward to the world. Effective families are positive and optimistic, relishing the challenges ahead of them, but never negative and grim.

Nor is it the government's role to prescribe how families should behave, but to support them in their many and varied efforts to do the best they can for each other. The modern family is a positive social institution, which imbues the values of honesty, self reliance and justice and is the building block for a fair and open society. "Home" provides "hope" and "hope" creates "aspiration".

If National (or any other party) shares that positive view of families, United Future will happily work with them to achieve those goals. That is what good politics can do for families today. Dec 1, 2006 No. 14 My recent comments to the Auckland Employers and Manufacturers regarding Kiwisaver and compulsory superannuation have attracted much attention. What I said was that Kiwisaver is a voluntary contributory savings scheme, that could be converted to a compulsory scheme if it becomes clear over the next few years that there is a groundswell for compulsory superannuation.

At that point, future corporate and personal tax reform could well focus on tax offsets for the contributions made to compulsory superannuation.

But the point I sought to emphasise, above all else, was that the searing effect of the superannuation debate since 1984 means that no party is likely to go out on a limb for this course, unless it is clear that it has sustained and substantial public support to do so.

The worst outcome would be to begin the compulsory savings journey – only to have politics as usual intervene for the third time in 30 years to cut it short. 2006 has been a big year for tax reform. In addition to Kiwisaver, the new rules for offshore investment taxation will be passed by Parliament before Christmas. The Business Tax Review has been completed with decisions due early next year and the discussion document on increased tax rebates for charitable giving has been released. Both of these arise directly from the United Future/Labour confidence and supply agreement. Double tax agreements have been finalised with Chile, Spain, Poland, Austria and Mexico.

Other discussion documents on salary sacrifice; general and limited partnerships; life insurance; tax penalties; skills training; export market development, and research and development have been released. Legislation amending the Child Support scheme to make it easier for liable parents to meet their responsibilities has been passed, and legislation has been introduced to complete the plain English rewriting of the Income Tax Act, and to make it easier for graduates overseas to meet their student loan liabilities.

And we are not through yet. A major discussion document on reforming our international tax arrangements is due out before Christmas. My Inland Revenue officials have done a tremendous job in meeting all the demands of this ambitious agenda, and I thank them for that.

Sometimes I wonder about our priorities. Caregivers for the elderly working in private sector rest homes and with 15 years or more experience are being paid $11.08 an hour – 43% less than the starting rate for workers in the Wellington City Animal Pound. I have nothing against caring for animals, but is this relativity the way things should be in 2006? A safe and happy Christmas to you and your families.


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