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Patrick Gower interviews Labour leader Andrew Little

Patrick Gower interviews Labour leader Andrew Little

Little says a Labour government won’t bring in a capital gains tax in its first term.

“We won’t introduce it in our first term, and we won’t introduce any change that significant to the tax system, any material change to the tax system, without going to the people first and getting a mandate to do so”

If Labour gets into power it would seek to “renegotiate the clause on land sales and preserving New Zealand’s sovereignty” in the TPP

Won’t say if Labour supports or opposes TPP. Says it backs free-trade, but “when legislation comes to Parliament, if we are being asked to support something…that breaches our bottom lines or cuts across those sovereign principles, we won’t be supporting that”.

Says it’s “too simplistic” to say Labour is either for or against the TPP because the trade deal is “too complex”

Labour’s NZ Power policy of having a single electricity buyer is “too complex” and should be “put on hold”

Patrick Gower: Thank you, Lisa, and thank you, Andrew Little, for joining us and having us at your conference. I want to start with a really simple question. The TPP is out – the text is out. All the information is out there. Does Labour support the TPP, or under your leadership is Labour against the TPP?
Andrew Little: The TPP is here. The National Government has signed up to it. That’s not going to change. We had five bottom lines that we were going to measure it against. We haven’t been through the 6000 pages of text in detail, but we’ve been through enough to know that four of our bottom lines have been met. There’s one, a pretty serious one, that hasn’t been, and that’s the one that concerns restrictions on land sales. We don’t think that it’s acceptable that other countries should dictate to us whether or not we can pass laws to stop non-resident foreign buyers buying our homes and farms, and we reserve the right to do that. And there’s a second aspect to it as well, which is the fact we have an international agreement that tries to prevent our parliament doing what it might think is right for New Zealanders, and we’re opposed to that, and so we will fight very hard against that.
So that means the TPP has breached one of your non-negotiable bottom lines, hasn’t it?
Yeah, yeah.
So that means the Labour Party is against the TPP?
Well, because we have five bottom lines. Four of them it’s okay on. One of them it isn’t. We will fight hard on that one because we don’t think that it’s acceptable to have an agreement preventing New Zealand doing what’s right for them.
Just to be clear there; is Labour for or against the TPP?
Well, the problem with the question is the TPP is here. It’s been signed up to. It’s here. We never got a vote on it. We haven’t been involved in negotiating it. The National Government has signed us up to it, and what we’re left to do in opposition is to then assess it against our principles and our bottom lines, which is what we’ve done.
It is quite a simple question. All the other major parties have a position. National is for it. The Greens and New Zealand First are against it. So the question is this – the TPP is here, as you’ve said. Is the Labour Party for or against the TPP?
The problem with the question is I know that if I say, right, we’re for this or we’re against that— we are for free trade, we understand the importance for a country like ours of free trade to open access to markets to help our exporters generate wealth and create jobs. That’s absolutely vital.
Sure, but—
But the TPP does something else. Now listen. The TPP does something else, and it does something pretty rotten, actually. It tries to tell the New Zealand Parliament and therefore the voters and citizens of New Zealand how our parliament should operate. That’s wrong, and that can never be justified and can never be defended, and we will fight against it.
But I want to be clear that fighting against that, which is what we will do – I’m absolutely committed to doing – is not anti-free trade. It is not opposing our long-standing heritage as a party in supporting free trade. I want to make that clear. So when you ask the question, it is too simplistic and too simple to simply say, yeah, we’re for this or we’re against it, because it’s too complex.
Because it’s a deal and it’s a package, and you can’t pick and choose, and it’s here now, the time for fighting is over. It’s here.
The deal’s been done.
I disagree absolutely, and that’s the whole thing. There are some people in the National Party—
You can change it?
Well, Tim Groser has already said they know that the deal on dairy is rubbish, and I agree with them. It is. And he says, ‘We want to renegotiate it.’ Well, good on him. Good luck to him, because they should do. So we will renegotiate the clause on land sales and preserving New Zealand’s sovereignty. We have to do that, because having an international agreement—
So you’ll back it until then?
Well, we don’t have a vote on it. We don’t—
Well, you’ll have a vote on some enabling legislation. What will happen then? What will you do if there’s an enabling vote when there is an enabling vote actually on tariff reductions? Will Labour vote for that or against that?
We don’t know what the legislation will be, what it will cover, how far it will go. But I can say this – we will not support anything. We will not support-
Well, there won’t-
No, listen-
No, no, because there won’t be a vote for- there won’t be a vote for that part of it.
So let’s talk about tariff reductions-
So we won’t support a legislation…
…that has the effect of cutting across New Zealand’s sovereign rights.
But I’m not asking about that. What about enabling legislation for tariff reductions? Would you vote for that?
So that’s when I’m saying. So if there’s something that comes to Parliament that calls on us to support or vote for something that cuts across New Zealanders’ right to control who buys our homes and farms or cuts across our sovereign rights, we will oppose that.
But what about tariff reductions? If something comes before Parliament, which it will have to, to enable tariff reductions for New Zealand exporters, will Labour vote for that or not?
So we don’t know what legislation-
There will need to be legislation for tariff reductions. You know that.
Accepting there will be a legislation. But when we met with the Minister a month or so ago, he couldn’t tell us what was going to be in the legislation. So I can’t be more specific, except to say-
Let me try it this way-
Except to say when legislation comes to Parliament, if we are being asked to support something…
Yes, but I’m not asking about that-
…that breaches our bottom lines or cuts across those sovereign principles, we won’t be supporting that.
Sure, sure, but what about tariff reductions? Would you vote for that?
Well, we don’t know what’s going to be in the legislation. The Minister couldn’t tell us.
But if there is, which there will need to be, would you vote for that?
The Minister couldn’t tell us what’s going to be in the legislation, so I cannot be more specific. So I’m not going to commit to something that I don’t know about.
Let’s try it this way – if you get into power, if Labour gets into power, will you try and get out of the TPP?
Well, I just said that we will renegotiate the TPP-
Would you try and-? And if you can’t renegotiate, will you try and get out of it? Because you can; there’s a six-month notice period.
The starting point is to renegotiate that clause. I’d back myself to get that changed. Tim Groser says they can renegotiate dairy. We can renegotiate the clause on land sales, and we know that that’s possible, because three parties to the TPPA have already exempted themselves from that clause. Australia isn’t covered by it. So why would we? So we will get out of it.
And if you can’t renegotiate, will you get out of it?
Well, we won’t be bound by that clause. I’ve made it pretty clear. We will do what’s right for New Zealand, and we’re going to stick up for what’s right for New Zealand. We’ll pass whatever legislation we have a mandate to do for, and that’s what we will do.
I just want to move on, but quickly – you won’t rule out voting for legislation that enables tariff reductions?
See, you’re trying to reduce it to that simplicity. I don’t know what’s going to be in the legislation coming to Parliament-
But you’re prepared to-
What I can say- what I can say-
You’re prepared to vote for enabling legislation, aren’t you?
We are not going to support anything at Parliament…
Yes, I know that answer.
…that’s going to create- that’s going to cut across or undermine New Zealand’s sovereignty.
All right. We’ll move on. Let’s look at positioning in terms of Labour working with the Greens. Last week, Russel Norman told us that the Greens and Labour have to work together right now to look like a government in waiting. What’s the hold-up? Why won’t you do that?
Well, actually, we are working pretty well together. We did when Russel was leader. We had an odd, minor hiccup. We’re doing it under the new leadership, where we meet on a regular basis. We talk. I wouldn’t say we coordinate-
But it’s more than that. It’s showing the public. It’s showing the public that you are a government in waiting. When will we see something-? Or will we see something?
Well, yeah, we are working well together, and we are in touch with each other on a regular basis, as indeed we are with New Zealand First. The reality is we are all opposition parties. It’s not in our interest or anybody’s interest for us not to be working effectively together, and we are doing that.
Yeah, and just quickly on the capital gains tax, we’ve seen that that has been withdrawn from the manifesto this weekend. Obviously, you won’t campaign on it, but can you guarantee that Labour won’t try and introduce a capital gains tax when in power?
Well, we won’t introduce it in our first term, and we won’t introduce any change that significant to the tax system, any material change to the tax system, without going to the people first and getting a mandate to do so.
Yeah, so no capital gains tax in the first term of a Labour government?
No capital gains tax in the first term, and if after doing a review and measuring our tax system against the principle of fairness—
And very quickly on NZ Power – the NZ Power policy. That’s going to go too. It’s too complex?
Yeah, well, the conference is yet to make a decision on that, but at this point, my advice is – recommendation is – is that it is too complex; let’s put that on hold. We know what the objective is. We want to reduce power prices, and let’s look at the best way of doing that and doing it in a way that we can explain to New Zealanders.
Sure. Andrew Little, thank you very much.


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