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Politics in Full Sentences - 15 July 2019

Taxed enough already

Green Party Minister Julie Anne Genter last week proposed a ‘feebate’ scheme for motor vehicles through which purchasers of cheap, reliable (but higher-emitting) cars will be forced to pay a tax that will help subsidise electric and low-emission vehicles. The proposal ignores the fact that motorists are already taxed through the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) which puts a per tonne price on emissions. Motorists pay an ETS charge of about 6 cents per litre when buying petrol. They then pay a further 64 cents of other taxes and, in Auckland, a further 10 cent regional fuel tax. GST is charged on top, taking total fuel taxes to around 81 cents per litre (and 92 cents in Auckland). The driver of a Toyota Corolla who travels 300,000km at 8L/100km will pay about $20,000 of fuel tax over their lifetime (80c/L x 8L/100km x 300,000km).

We’re not buying it

The Government believes subsidising fuel-efficient cars will shift a significant number of New Zealanders into electric vehicles. But government policy already subsidises EVs and people are still not buying them. Electric vehicle owners are absolved of paying the taxes mentioned above, which represent a subsidy of at least $20,000. The Greens have long (incorrectly) argued that tax treatment of oil and gas exploration amounts to a subsidy to the industry. They can’t deny, then, that avoiding petrol taxes is a subsidy to electric vehicles. The Government should really be asking: Why aren't people buying EVs? If people aren't already choosing them in spite of massive subsidies, they may be trying to tell the Government something about their efficiency as a way of reducing emissions. EVs are an expensive way of reducing emissions and the Government should avoid further funding for such an ineffective approach.

Social justice versus environmental justice

The policy also creates division in the Green Party between well-off urban liberals who believe New Zealand should cut greenhouse gas emissions at any cost and others who are more sympathetic to the additional burden this tax represents for low-income households. The social justice wing of the Green Party might ask why the party is prepared to place even more costs on those who drive cheap, reliable cars, such as petrol-powered Toyota Corollas, just so the environmental wing can drive a Tesla.

The failing gun ‘buyback’

It has been a very bad week for the Government’s gun ‘buyback’ scheme. Two Police mistakes in the same week show they aren’t equipped to do the job Parliament has demanded of them. In the wake of a man stealing 11 firearms by walking through an open door at the Palmerston North Police Station, media reported that two of the firearms were not stolen, having been returned to their rightful owners a week earlier. The error was due to lost paperwork. Meanwhile, in Auckland, the Independent Police Conduct Authority found that Police lost a man's firearms after he surrendered them. Even after an investigation, the firearms have not been located. ACT predicts that, with thousands of people attempting to hand in their firearms at once, we will see a steady stream of similar incidents.

By the numbers

Despite spending two days in our second-largest centre, and the city in which our nation’s tragedy occurred, Police managed to collect just 500 guns. That’s less than 0.2 per cent of the 250,000 to 300,000 now-prohibited firearms the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners estimates exist. This is a significant failure and the Government will be disappointed with the numbers. The Government’s arrogant and shabby treatment of the gun community is likely to mean that thousands of firearms go underground, without regulatory oversight, making us a less safe country.

The wrong guns

Not only have Police managed to retrieve just a few hundred guns, they are taking the least-dangerous firearms out of circulation. Only civic-minded and law-abiding gun owners will hand over their firearms to Police. People who are prepared to line up in the full public glare and hand in their firearms for unjust compensation are not the people we should be worried about. The Government should be targeting gang members and other criminals.

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