So Parliament sat under urgency last night. Excuse me, extreme urgency.
Not to stop the imposition of new taxes, via the Emissions Trading Taxes, which from July 1st will be adding new taxes on power and petrol and much else.
Not to cut company taxes, which might allow NZ’s struggling businesses to get off the floor.
Not to cut income taxes, one of National’s headline election promises which is destined to remain broken.
Not to take GST off food, which would make things easier for low-income folk.
No, it wasn’t sitting under urgency for any of those things. It was sitting under urgency—excuse me, extreme urgency—so it could whack a new tax on one of the simple pleasures of thousands of New Zealanders. Hitting (at the behest of the Maori Party) right at the wallets of low-income folk, who are by and large the largest smokers. Nanny Turia taking a leaf from Nanny Palmer’s playbook to take out the big stick.
The announcement was made in the manner of Muldoon—a late announcement that by midnight the present usurious tax on tobacco would be hiked immediately by another ten-percent on packets of cigarettes, and twenty-four percent on loose tobacco—with more new theft to come next year, and the year after. And as it was under the Muldoon announcements, folk impacted by the hike headed off to their regular retailers to stock up on their chosen pleasures before the rise.
It was all just like the old days, really. Another National Government whacking on taxes after dark to make enjoying one of life’s little pleasures more difficult. New taxes on an already over-taxed pleasure.
What will this mean for smokers, who for the most part are low-income folk? Look at it this way: for a packet of 25 cigarettes now costing around $14.40, without all the the taxes that packet would cost you just $3.40. All the rest is tax.
The “thinking” behind last night’s tax hike, if any actual thought was involved here, is that higher taxes will reduce people's smoking. This is “thinking” at its lowest possible ebb. Smoking is nobody’s business but the smoker’s. Smokers already pay far more than the “social cost” of any possible harm. And smokes are a highly inelastic purchase—meaning that instead of reducing the number of smokes the smoker buys because of the higher cost, it’s just as likely that smokers will reduce their purchase of everything else instead (and the govt will reap a huge windfall). Or they will simply hand their money over to gangs to provide them with more affordable black-market smokes.
So even if you don’t smoke yourself, what this move will do is further encourage the government to tax the hell out of all of life’s little pleasures (smokers are today’s lepers; who’s next?), and to further increase the profits of the gangs. Smart, huh? No, it’s not.
So it’s a thoughtless, grasping move to placate a party—the Maori Party—who you would think, for all that they’ve been given, that they have secret photos of John Key stashed away somewhere. (Wouldn’t you love to take a peek in Tariana & Pita’s safe to see what they’ve got locked up there?)
And as at least one former ACT supporter wants to know, it now begs the question: how long will ACT go on supporting a government committed to everything the ACT party was once presumed to oppose. “Where is the line, Rodney?” a blogger at Clint Heine’s blog wants to know.
Well, it’s clearly not this new tax rise, because at least one ACT party MP voted for it . . .
Clearly there are a lot of proposals, and some, such as raising the alcohol excise, are perhaps aspirational, but the Government will give due consideration to the entirety of the report.
‘I look forward to working with my Ministerial colleagues on doing that and drawing out the recommendations that will best achieve an environment where responsible alcohol use marks the New Zealand drinking culture,’ he said.
“Breathing is aspirational as well, yet the Government seems to favour that. So what's the difference? Class, that's what…
“Mr Key is Mr Reponsible Drinking. But he is as likely to be seen with a fag as to grow a beard. Prime Ministers do not do that sort of thing anymore… Smoking is a poor man's addiction, as Mrs Turia observes.”