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On the Nation: Lisa Owen Interviews Colin Craig

On the Nation: Lisa Owen Interviews Colin Craig

Lisa Owen: Conservative Party leader Colin Craig joins me now. Good morning, Mr Craig.
Colin Craig: Good morning.
John Key was on this programme this morning, and he had a chance to endorse you with a week to go. He didn’t endorse you. He doesn’t want you. He doesn’t think he needs you.

Well, look, I mean, frankly, I don’t care whether he’s endorsing us or not. We’re a political party that’s winning support, and we do that by people looking at us and going, ‘Hey, I support their policies, and I support what they stand for. That’s what politics is about, in my view; not getting some sort of endorsement from another political party. Ultimately, it’s a competition for votes.

Ok, well, your bottom line is a citizens-initiated referenda. Your website says that you’ll need the support of 5% of registered voters to spark a referendum. Are you dropping that from the current 10% that we need?

Yeah, look, 5% gets you a political party into parliament, and we think it’s more than sufficient in terms of a threshold. Um, that’s our ideal. That’s where we’d like to end up. And the reality—

But if you do have that as a threshold, if you do have 5%, you need only to get 150,000 voters to sign up. I mean, and then what do we expect? One referendum a month? You know, at $9 million a pop? Is that a good use of money? Are we going to be inundated?

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Highly unlikely. No, highly unlikely. Well, of course we’re not going to be inundated. I mean, the country and the world that uses binding referenda the most is Switzerland, and they don’t have anything like one a month. Now, on average in New Zealand, we’ve had one every four years. There have been two or three that have missed out that would have got through on a 5% threshold. So even that’s only one every three years – about the frequency of an election. Hardly something to be concerned about.

Ok. Are you going to make voting in them compulsory?

No. I don’t think compulsory voting in New Zealand is something that we do. No, we give everyone the opportunity. We don’t have compulsory voting in our elections, and so I don’t think it’s a sudden change, and we’re not suggesting that suddenly we should make voting in this country compulsory.

But the difficulty with that is that only 45% of voters turned out for the last one, which was on asset sales. And then you only need 67% of those people to tick for it and you push it through. If you do the maths, that’s only 30% support from registered voters. Are you happy to change the direction of a country based on the views of a minority?

It’s the views of a two-thirds majority of those who turned up. Look, our last election, we had—

That’s a minority of registered voters.

Last election—

That is a minority of registered voters.

Last election, we had just over 70% of voters turn out, but nobody looks at our government and says, ‘Oh my goodness. They clearly don’t have a mandate.’ No, in fact, they have absolute power, and we’re saying we should bring some limitation to that power, and the people of this country want that.

But people turning out to vote in a referendum is much lower than the turnout for a general election.

Only and obviously if the referendum is not held at election time. If it’s held at election time, you get the same turnout. And my preference is that they are, where possible, held at election time. I think that makes a lot of sense.

Well, I want to turn now to your tax policy. You want to have the first 20 grand free for everybody.

That’s our goal.

And then ideally after that, 25%. So how much is that going to cost again?

Well, look, the first step—We’ve got two first steps. The first is to align the top tax rate so that the company rate, the personal rate, the trust rate are all the same—

I want the bill, Mr Craig. How much is it going to cost?

In terms of the 20,000 tax-free threshold, ultimately that is costed at a bit over $4 billion. $4.2 billion. We are not saying—

Your total. Can I have a total?

That’s the total for that.

For your entire--? No, I want a total for your entire tax policy. What is it?

No, we haven’t costed the rest of the tax policy, and I expect to—

We have. So let me talk you through it.


We’ve done it. We’ve got two independent costings. One from a top economist and one from a top tax expert. Both come out at approximately $7 billion.

And that would probably—

How are you going to pay for that?

Look, that would probably be right if you look at the whole package and where we would want to end up.

How are you going to pay for it?

Where we start is we start with a tax-free threshold. That means that people can earn money and take it home without paying tax—

That’s not an explanation of how you’re going to pay for it. Could you give me an answer to that question?

Yes, I am. This is about a smaller, more efficient government. So the sorts of things that save us money. Number one – overwhelmingly, the voters in this country wanted to reduce the size of our government. They wanted less MPs. That would be less staff. That’s less of a bureaucracy. I’ve talked about the ministry—

$7 billion you’ve got to pay for.

Remember, the first step for us is to bring in that tax-free threshold. The bill of the tax-free threshold is not $7 billion. And this is about starting the progress towards where people can take home $20,000 without paying tax. Of course that’s going to cost money. But this is about a smaller, more efficient government. The second example that I will give you is the Ministry of Education. That doesn’t teach anybody, but it gets well over $800 million in a year.

So nowhere near $7 billion. You can’t give me a straight answer. We’ve got a little bit of time.

Look, we are not going to fund $7 billion straight away. Let me make that very, very clear.

All right. We’ll leave it there.

But we’re going to start with the tax-free threshold.

Thank you very much for joining me this morning, Mr Craig.

Thank you.


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