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Tax Bill Error Raises Questions About Government's Competence

Although the additional small business support measures passed by Parliament yesterday are positive, an error in the legislative process raises questions about the Government’s competence”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Small and medium enterprises require support at this time. ACT voted for the Government’s tax legislation yesterday in good faith and we hope that the new measures will succeed.

“However, it has emerged that the legislation tabled in Parliament and released to the public was different from the bill passed through the House. ACT had been consulted on the former, but the latter included a new small business loan scheme.

“I was surprised to see the small business loan scheme in the bill when I got to Parliament yesterday. I said at the time, ‘It looks okay, but the Government better communicate it well’.

“The Finance Minister today admitted the error but promptly threw officials from the Parliamentary Counsel Office under the bus. However, parliamentary counsel can’t release legislation without first getting approval from the Minister’s office. This is Robertson’s mistake and he should own up to it.

“The error raises questions about the Government’s competence. Given the speed at which this legislation was drafted, the Government should also explain what due diligence was done by Treasury and IRD officials on the small business loan idea.

“SMEs can’t afford this scheme to fail. We hope we are proven wrong, but, given the Government’s track record, it is a real possibility. The business finance guarantee scheme, for example, has not worked as planned.

“A lack of consultation with other political parties also seems to be a pattern. The Prime Minister has said we’re all in this together. However, the Finance Minister still hasn’t sent ACT a copy of the MP pay cut legislation, despite claiming on the radio that he is consulting with other political parties.

“We understand that the Government is moving quickly in a fluid situation with limited information, but it has potentially introduced a scheme that won’t work. This error does not engender confidence in the Government’s economic response. We must continue to support SMEs, but due diligence on complex legislative issues cannot go out the window completely.”

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