Oxfam urges Tax Working Group to reduce growing wealth gap - 'It's not good for New Zealand'

Oxfam has urged the Tax Working Group to crack down on tax avoidance by the very rich after new stats showed the top one per cent took home 28 per cent of 2017's wealth.

Data compiled by Oxfam showed the top 10 per cent took more than half of the wealth created last year - just two men own more than the poorest 30 per cent of New Zealanders - about 1.4 million people.

Those 1.4 million took just one per cent of the wealth created and about 90 per cent of Kiwis own less than half of New Zealand's wealth.

Oxfam New Zealand chief executive Rachael Le Mesurier, speaking this morning to TVNZ 1's Breakfast, said this is a dramatic demonstration of inequality, which can have other negative effects like eroding democracy.

"What we're seeing is this small group of elite in places like the World Economic Forum in Davos this week having the extraordinary ability to be able to get in the ear of politicians and look at tax laws that benefit them and their shareholders - but not anything else," Ms Le Mesurier said.

"Tax is one piece that New Zealanders can look at right now - what can taxes do in New Zealand to make it fairer?

"It's not fair that a small proportion can avoid paying taxes and most importantly how to help that 30 per cent of the poorest part of the population to get a bigger share of the wealth growth?"

Ms Le Mesurier said Oxfam is "not about being anti-rich - it is actually about being anti-poverty".

"This extreme gap is not good - it's not good for the world and it's not good for New Zealand.

"Inequality is not inevitable ... governments do have choices.

"If we don't do something about this expanding gap between the very poor and the very rich, those successes [of] lifting people out of poverty are going to stall and perhaps even go backwards."

The Government has committed to a Tax Working Group chaired by Sir Michael Cullen, with an interim report due this year and final recommendations by early 2019.

The working group will consider a capital gains or land tax, but not on the family home, a progressive company tax system and a tax system that delivers positive environmental outcomes - though not specifically a carbon tax.

Critics say, however, that the tax working group is just a rubber stamp to introduce a capital gains tax. Source: 1 NEWS

The group will include Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash.

Mr Robertson last year said "the Tax Working Group has been established to look at the structure, fairness and balance of New Zealand’s tax system".

"The wide range of expertise and experience among the membership means the Working Group is well placed to consider changes to make our tax system fairer," he said.

The working group's other members are from a diverse range of business backgrounds.

TAX WORKING GROUP MEMBERS

Professor Craig Elliffe, University of Auckland

Joanne Hodge, former tax partner at Bell Gully

Kirk Hope, Chief Executive of Business New Zealand

Nick Malarao, senior partner at Meredith Connell

Geof Nightingale, partner at PwC New Zealand

Robin Oliver, former Deputy Commissioner at Inland Revenue

Hinerangi Raumati, Chair of Parininihi ki Waitotara Inc

Michelle Redington, Head of Group Taxation and Insurance at Air New Zealand

Bill Rosenberg, Economist and Director of Policy at the CTU

Marjan Van Den Belt, Assistant Vice Chancellor (Sustainability) at Victoria University of Wellington

CEO Rachael de Mesurier is concerned that it could see efforts to alleviate poverty diminished. Source: 1 NEWS



Jacinda Ardern juggling baby with PM role will be 'very tough', Don Brash says

Don Brash says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will have a tough time juggling her Prime Minister and motherhood roles, but that it will be a fantastic achievement "if she can pull it off".

Speaking on TVNZ1's Breakfast today alongside broadcaster Sarah Hall, Dr Brash said being a politician with young children is tough, and taking it on while Prime Minister will be "very hard indeed".

"It's a good thing to achieve ... I think most of the country think it's great - and if she can pull it off? Great," Dr Brash said.

"At her age it's not straightforward either."

Mr Brash said having such a young - and cute - child during the 2020 and even the 2023 election campaigns would be "a major political factor".

"It will improve Labour's chances," he said.

Ms Hall said the pregnancy was inspiring to other working women.

"Most people think it's fantastic to see a woman who can lead and be a mother," she said.

"Everyone knows it's going to be difficult, but she has a supportive partner, he's going to be looking after the baby and there's nothing wrong with that, people."

The former National Party leader is supportive of the Prime Minister’s decision. Source: Breakfast

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Raising salaries not the answer to recruiting GPs to small towns, says doctors' group

Rural towns are struggling to retain long term doctors, as 50 towns currently are on the look out for permanent GPs. 

Dalton Kelly of the New Zealand Rural Practice Network (NZRGPN) told TVNZ1's Breakfast today the sector need to find a mechanism to get doctors from the cities out the rural communities.

"Communities with less than 15,000 people trying to attract a long term doctor to that kind of community is a big exercise," he said. 

He said NZRGPN recruit overseas doctors to small New Zealand communities with many staying long term. They have attracted and retained 70 in the last six months. 

However Mr Kelly referred to it as a "very good short term measure, but the real answer is to grow our own and to make New Zealanders move to rural communities because they want to go there". 

He said the downside of not having a long term doctor was not having an ongoing relationship with the local residents. 

"Ninety per cent of New Zealanders go to their GP as a first point of call when they're not feeling well and it's nice to have a relationship long term," he said. 

Raising salaries is not a long term solution, Mr Kelly said, but suggested the government continue initiatives such as making sure rural students go to medical school. 

He said if people come from a rural settlement they are more likely to go back and work in that community.

"We need to ensure the brightest and best of young students from rural colleges get into med school."

Dalton Kelly of the NZRGPN said about 50 towns are currently looking for a long term doctor. Source: Breakfast