Internet Party leader Laila Harre said it would stop the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, give students free tertiary education and instigate a royal commission on any spying on New Zealand residents by the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB).Let's take these in turn.
- I'm a bit of a TPP-sceptic, but I'd sure not want to stop it until the final text had been hammered out. There's some chance yet that it could be well worth having. We just have to be ready to turn it down if it isn't. Getting better dairy access to the US would be great, but so too would avoiding having US copyright laws imposed on us. Until we see the deal, we won't know what the trade-offs are.
- Free tertiary education seems a rather poor idea. After Labour put in interest-free student loans, a whole pile of other sectoral distortions followed. Why? Because every additional admitted domestic student meant a potentially substantial liability for the Crown. And so we started getting different funding arrangements with capped student intake. Either this policy would be extraordinarily expensive, or it would wind up reducing the number of places at Uni, or it would require substantial per-student cost-cutting at the Universities.
- I could be sympathetic to the last bit, but I'm not sure what the point would be. We kinda know what they did, and the government has made it all legal. We don't need a Royal Commission. We need a redrafting of the legislation with input from the tech sector at ground level. [Update: Chris Yong, Internet Party candidate for Te Atatu, notes that the Commission enquiry would be into the handling of the DotCom case; the total review of the GCSB Act would be separate.]
Mana Party Waiariki candidate Annette Sykes said it would close prisons, while co-vice president John Minto promised to abolish GST but introduce a tax on financial speculation, and bring back the inheritance tax ditched by National.
- I'd really want to see what policies they're proposing to reduce the prison muster before commenting on closing prisons. If they can do it by legalising possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana while releasing anybody jailed for only those offences, and if that were enough to do away with a prison, great.
- Replacing GST with a speculation tax is an extraordinarily bad idea. The GST is a nice clean tax. Financial speculation taxes are rather harder to implement and, worse, don't make a lot of sense. The best case for them is that they might reduce excess volatility in currency markets, but that doesn't apply well to the kinds of long term cycles we get in the NZ dollar.
- Inheritance taxes aren't uncommon around the world, but they do involve substantially more distortion than does the GST. Whenever you put in inheritance taxes, you have to put in a big apparatus around transfers from parents to children to avoid folks' just pre-gifting the inheritance. But when you do that, you also encumber a lot of ways that parents are already helping their children for non-tax-avoidance reasons. If an inheritance tax kicks in at $500,000, that will hit a pretty decent fraction of estates where the deceased owned a home. Do you then require that the grieving kids sell off the family home to pay the taxes? Or do you exempt the family home, and consequently induce even greater investment in housing? It's messy.