Gordon Campbell on the centre-right’s credibility problems

Trust thumbSupposedly, people get the governments they deserve, but what on earth did we do in our past lives to deserve an Opposition as shambolic as the one on offer this election, on the centre-right? Surely these days, no-one in their right mind would take the risk of buying a used car from Christopher Luxon.

It is now plain why National has been delaying for as long as humanly possible the need to reveal the costs for its tax and spending policies. That’s because it plainly hasn’t a clue – and couldn’t care less – about how to derive the revenue it needs to fund its tax cuts package without making significant inroads into the essential public services (health, education etc) already stretched to breaking point.

Independent economists have now found a half billion dollar hole in the revenue that National is claiming it will derive from its foreign buyers levy. Similar shortfalls exist in the revenue that National claims it will derive from taxing online gambling more vigorously. Furthermore, the revenue it claims it will derive from increased charges on key immigration visas has never made any sense at all.

Those levies would make New Zealand even less desirable destination of the scarce skilled talent we need to attract, especially given that National seems to have no corresponding plans to improve the inexplicable delays and opaque decisions that foreigners already associate with our so-called Immigration “Service.”

The refuseniks party

National’s refusal to release the economic models for its foreign buyers levy has been matched by Christopher Luxon’s inability/refusal to answer the most basic of media questions – such as, for instance, what impact he thinks his foreign buyers levy would have on the local housing market. On TV3 on Wednesday night, Luxon not only twice gave an answer that was totally unrelated to that question, but he looked rattled and peeved at being pressed to produce a relevant reply. Watch and be astonished.

The centre-right’s credibility problems have spread from National to its erstwhile coalition partner. ACT’s problems of late have been largely self-inflicted – e.g. their dodgy list of candidates, and the increasingly odd comments emanating from its leader. All of this came to a head earlier this week with David Seymour threatening to mimic Winston Peters, and sit on the cross benches and bring down the government if need be, should ACT not get the policy gains from National that it feels it deserves.

Cosplaying Peters

Interesting switch. Clearly, ACT feels itself to be now locked in mortal combat with New Zealand First for the votes of the conspiracy theorists on the right. To that end, Seymour has become the centre-right’s designated attack dog to try and reduce NZF’s vote, and keep Peters out of Parliament.

Those cross benches are going to be crowded. As part of ACT’s “Just Like Winston” strategy, Act is suggesting that it too, would be willing to shun the baubles of office if that’s what it takes to keep everyone else honest. You may well be wondering how an ACT Party that portrays itself as the vanguard party of the centre right, is now posing as a Peters-like handbrake on National.

“Pose” being the operative word. Peters and Seymour may both be populists, but they’re not cut from the same cloth. Seymour is a social liberal who aims to ensure National stays on an extreme right wing trajectory, while Peters – a social conservative and nationalist for over 30 years – is a more credible champion of the people left behind by globalisation.

Footnote: So far, economists of various ideological hues have agreed that there is a (roughly) half billion hole in National’s projected revenue gains from the foreign buyers levy. Interestingly,the economists featured on RNZ have cited British Columbia and Ontario as evidence that – after such a levy is imposed – sales to foreign buyers plummeted. Werewolf made the same point two weeks ago:

In sum, British Columbia’s four year experiment with a foreign buyer levy is a cautionary tale, not a happy precedent….At the time of implementation in 2018, the MetroVancouver housing market was massively overheating: foreign purchases were running at 17% of all transactions and 23% of total transaction value. Most of these foreign buyers were from China.

Unhappily for National’s rosy $740 million revenue expectations….after the imposition of the tax, the sales numbers across British Columbia plummeted:

Foreign purchases dropped into the low single digits in the aftermath of the tax to 2.6% of transactions in 2017. The 2018 BC Budget, under a new NDP government, increased the foreign buyers’ tax to 20% and expanded its scope beyond Metro Vancouver to include the Fraser Valley, the Capital and Nanaimo Regional Districts on Vancouver Island and the Central Okanagan Regional District. Since then the share of foreign purchases has fallen further to 2.5% in 2018, 2.0% in 2019 and 1.3% in 2020. In the rest of the province the foreign share fell from 2.4% in 2017 to 1.4% of transactions in 2020.

China BTW, has imposed regulations meant to reduce the extent of capital flight by its citizens. So, on the evidence… Any pent up demand from the non-Australian, non-Singaporean buyers coming into the wealthy end of the New Zealand housing market will –judging by the Canadian precedent – be significantly deterred by the impact of the levy. that National is relying on.

Unfortunately, the damage further down the price chain would endure. Inviting foreign buyers back into our housing market would – as Treasury advised in 2019 – drive up the price of land. It would also lift house prices, even for houses currently priced below the nominal cut-off figure of $2 million. That’s because local sellers will crank up the price on houses in the $1.5 – $2 million range, in order to pull those foreign buyers with deep pockets into their orbit.

Meanwhile, as illustrated above, Christopher Luxon is refusing to answer questions about these effects.

DJ Kicks

The London based electronic duo known as DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ have just released a four hour long album called Destiny. As Stereogum says, Destiny offers rewards to anyone who cares to listen to it closely, or to use it as a soundtrack for a party, or for doing the household chores.

That said, this sample-rich kaleidoscope has been carefully layered and curated to within an inch of its life, while still sounding loose and spontaneous. In that respect, it resembles the Avalanches’ turn of the millennium classic Since I Left You – with its 3,500 samples, integrated into an amazingly coherent whole.

Yet IMO, Destiny also feels like what Greg Gillis achieved a decade or more ago with Girl Talk i.e. it takes you across an ever-shifting terrain of experiences without ever losing the dancefloor pulse. ] Here’s Destiny’s opening cut “ Honey” … and the video’s collage of retro images alone is worthy of attention, over the track’s entire eight minute plus running time.