Documents reveal insight into coalition talks

A treasure trove of documents used during coalition talks have been made public, providing a fascinating insight into the formation of the new Government.

Released by the State Services Commission, the documents are responses to requests for information by political parties to government departments.

They can be viewed here.

All parties involved in discussions made requests, except for New Zealand First.

The Greens made the most requests, asking for information on more than 20 subjects from departments including Inland Revenue, Treasury, and the Department of Conservation.

Subjects ranged from environmental and social issues to increasing New Zealand’s refugee quota to 4000 and establishing a new resettlement centre outside Auckland.

Labour requested information on the impact of soon-to-be renegotiated collective agreements and new equal pay settlements, the cost of connecting Auckland to Northport by rail, and boosting the minimum wage.

Only one request was made by the National Party, asking for information on the impact of changing the skilled migrant category on overall resident numbers, including the number of people granted residency under family and humanitarian categories, to assist them in their discussions with New Zealand First.

Winston knows all

One of the main talking point from the release of the documents is likely to be the lack of information requested by New Zealand First.

Since leader Winston Peters and the party sided with Labour there have been murmurs that he was never seriously considering a deal with National.

The fact that his party requested no advice from the experts suggests it may have already made up its mind.

There have also been questions about the level of concessions New Zealand First managed to extract from Labour.

If New Zealand First did always intend to side with Labour, Peters certainly managed to secure a good swathe of ministerial and cabinet positions. Then again, perhaps Labour simply wanted to ensure its coalition partner would not feel sidelined.

Whatever the case, the documents will provide fresh fodder for beltway gossip.

Greens push capital gains tax

After a disastrous 2014 campaign Labour eventually ruled out introducing any new taxes until after the next election.

They took strong criticism about what their planned tax working group would consider, and leader Jacinda Ardern told voters any capital gains tax would not apply to the family home or the land under it.

During coalition talks the Greens were likely pushing the idea of a capital gains tax, asking Treasury for any information on the cost and revenue from its introduction.

Deputy Secretary Struan Little responded that potential revenue had been estimated but was “highly sensitive” to a number of assumptions.

In other countries with a capital gains tax, revenue had been volatile and if introduced would mean compliance costs for taxpayers.

To implement such a tax would cost between $10 million and $13m, while ongoing operating costs over four years would cost between $18m and $28m, Little said.

Predator Free complete unknown

One of former prime minister John Key’s last major announcements before stepping down was a goal to rid New Zealand of predators by 2050.

It involved setting up an organisation to manage the programme and promised a dollar for every $2000 donated by the private sector.

Earlier this month, a research strategy was announced that revolved around investigating genetically engineering rats so they produced only male offspring.

When the goal was announced, there was criticism from some that there was insufficient funding to achieve such a lofty target.

Advice received by the Greens during coalition talks suggests there is much work to do on the programme.

In response to a question about how much funding Predator Free 2050 needed, Department of Conservation director-general Lou Sanson said it was unknown.

“There is no scientifically based agreed consensus on the pest control methodology for achieving a Predator Free New Zealand by 2050.

“Therefore there is no reliable cost estimate available. It is publicly acknowledged that achieving a Predator Free NZ by 2050 will require a significant science breakthrough.”

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