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Upton On Line - Clark in the Crossfire

15 November 1999

Clark in the Crossfire

Notwithstanding the sound and fury displayed by Linda Clark and Mike Hoskings in last night's Crossfire Special, Labour leader Helen Clark got off lightly.

Hers was a polished and crafty performance. While the interviewers appeared to grill her ruthlessly, (cutting her off scornfully on a regular basis to maintain the blistering pace), she was able to get away with massive evasions. The aim of the Crossfire was changed with such speed and frequency that it took only one skilful dodge on each topic before she was safely into the next.

What about the big tax question no one has yet asked?

Helen has been going round the country saying that the top 5% of taxpayers should pay a little more so a Labour government could improve expenditure on some vital items.

Apart from the fact that the 5% figure is misleading (it's actually 10% of working taxpayers - the 5% figure includes beneficiaries), her argument slides over the ideological basis of the tax increase.

The fact is, tax increases have been on Labour's agenda for at least four years now. During that time the Government's projected tax take has bounced about all over the place.

If Ms Clark just needs $400 million (raised by putting the top rate up to 39c) to carry out her vital expenditure, does that mean that if the latest revenue projections had been $400 million higher she would have cancelled the increase? Or would she have tweaked the top rate anyway?

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If her answer is no to the first and yes to the second (and upton-on-line is certain that it would be), then Helen Clark would be admitting that her tax policy is an ideological one pure and simple.

Here's another question that could have been asked last night:

"You've just batted off criticism of Labour's abandonment of the West Coast forestry Accord by saying that the Accord had been made 13 years ago and was now 'historic'. One can only assume that by 'historic' you mean, no longer relevant, appropriate or binding.

"How do you apply this logic to the Treaty negotiations area?"
"When precisely does a promise move from being a promise that should be kept, to an historical artefact that is no longer relevant?"
"How does Damien O'Connor feel about all this?"

Mike Hoskings and Linda Clark did nail the Labour leader down on the fact that Labour had allowed not a bean in their proposed figures for the cost of implementing a few of the Alliance's policies.

Presumably, should the two parties find themselves in government, there would have to be some compromises. All the Alliance policies require more money.

"Where will it come from, given the fact there is no fat in Labour's figures?"
"How can you say there will be no more tax increases?"

Viewers of Crossfire would have been stunned to learn from Ms Clark that Michael Cullen is heir to a dynasty of great and fiscally responsible Finance Ministers, including Walter Nash, Bill Rowling and Bob Tizard. We say no more.

Finally, the Labour leader was at her weakest (and craftiest) on industrial relations. When asked if Labour's replacement of the ECA would mean that all the country's nurses could go on strike together, she replied, only the public ones. Thank goodness for that!


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