Heather du Plessis-Allan should retire | The Jackal

11 Sep 2017

Heather du Plessis-Allan should retire

The recent Steven Joyce fiscal hole debacle, although a complete strategic failure, identified a few key issues National will use to attack the Labour party over. This includes Labour waiting for the recommendations from a planned Tax Working Group before implementing any changes to their tax policy.

It's pretty evident that waiting for the recommendations is the right thing to do, being that a countries monetary situation changes over time. In terms of having the books and good governance, it would be remiss of Labour to make election promises by relying on out-dated information just to appease the right wing's braying over taxes.

However, this measured approach gives Labour’s opponents an opportunity to point at imaginary taxes and cry wolf. National in particular have been trying to appeal to people’s self-interest by falsely claiming that Kiwi’s would be financially worse off if there was a change in government.

Perhaps journalist Heather du Plessis-Allan, who will soon be spinning for the National party at Newstalk ZB, makes the best summary of the right wing’s current attack lines.

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Time for election scrutiny, not starry eyes

From the looks of things, Jacindamania is showing no sign of abating. And if that really is the case, it's time to snap out of it.

We're two weeks from election day. Now is the time for scrutiny, not starry eyes.

And that's even more necessary now Labour has pulled ahead in the polls and is a real prospect for government.

I would have thought that after nine long years in government the National party would need to be scrutinised more than the Labour party. After all, most government’s are voted out because they're judged on their track records.

Jacinda Ardern's party needs scrutiny on two fronts: so-called generational change and tax.

Ardern says she represents generational change. Yet she has just betrayed her own generation.

Ardern's pledge to keep superannuation at 65 will be a huge disappointment to people her own age.

Clearly the majority of people in Ardern’s age group don’t want to keep working for any longer than they have to. In fact that’s true of all working age groups, so I'm not sure what du Plessis-Allan is on about?

You'd have to have lived under a rock not to know there has been something akin to a generational war with superannuation as the battle ground.

Young people have been clamouring for the superannuation age to be lifted. They're paying for a huge - and increasing - number of Baby Boomers' pensions right now and for years to come.

Actually, the baby boomers paid for their own pensions because in most cases the government has taxed them accordingly over their entire working lives.

They're worried that by the time they reach Super age there won't be a pension on offer.

There's a good chance they're right.

So Heather du Plessis-Allan is merely speculating, or in other words fear-mongering about pensions not being available in the future. She has no statistics or examples to back up her and National's weak argument.

It's not so much that pensions really will become unaffordable, it's more that everyone else is lifting their pension age. The Australians have. The Germans have. The United Kingdom has. Ideas like that become fashionable and sweep the world and eventually end up in New Zealand. And that may happen before Ardern's generation qualify for a pension.

New Zealand should increase the retirement age because it’s fashionable? What kind of half-baked economic argument is that?

The calls to raise the Super age are so loud it was virtually one of the first things Bill English did as Prime Minister.

What a load of rubbish! Nobody wants the retirement age to increase except the National party and they’ve been whispering about it because even their coalition partners are highly skeptical. After all, increasing the retirement age is essentially just another unfair tax on physical labourers and Māori who have shorter life expectancy rates.

Furthermore, it took over eight years in government before National announced their retirement age policy, and English only did it because at the time National was riding high in the polls. I bet in hindsight the unelected PM wishes he hadn’t, especially with National's recent and unprecedented decline in support.

Yet Ardern has just committed her generation to paying for other people's pensions, while facing the prospect of missing out themselves.

All that can save her from this betrayal is something drastic like promising to limit pensions to only those 65-year-olds who really need it. And one of the only ways to do that is to promise means testing.

Who exactly is being betrayed?

Labour certainly isn’t betraying voters by saying they won’t implement National’s proposed pension policy. Taxpayers aren’t being betrayed because most of them are workers who will want to enjoy their retirement for as long as possible. There is no intergenerational betrayal because Labour will apply the same policy to all age groups.

What du Plessis-Allan doesn’t seem to understand is that Labour has allowed for the pensions of generations X, Y and Z etc in their fiscal planning. So either du Plessis-Allan hasn’t read the fine print properly or she’s being intentionally misleading like Steven Joyce.

The problem for National and their journalist attack dogs is that the pension was made universal because it costs less than leaving many impoverished elderly with health and housing related expenses they cannot meet. A universal pension system means less elderly miss out on the services they require, which not only raises their quality of life but also ends up saving the government money.

But that would probably be too brave a commitment this side of the election for Labour. At least, that seems the most likely scenario , judging by Labour's cowardice over its tax plans.

The problem for National and their negative attack campaigners is that the word tight, in relation to Labour’s fiscal plan, can easily be exchanged for the word accurate. In a brave new world, accuracy is what it's all about when it comes to fiscal accountability.

However the biggest hurdle for the right wing’s panicked media shills is that Labour’s current policy plank means Kiwi families will simply be better off. If Labour forms the next government people will have more social services, better health care, increased access to education, better public transport and the potential to attain a proper living wage.

Young people would be more likely to own their own homes under a Labour government and Jacinda Ardern is clearly offering voters a much better vision for New Zealand's future than Bill English is. The continued austerity measures hinted at by National just don't compare to the comprehensive alternative being proposed by a Labour led coalition government.

But don’t tell that to the ignorant Heather du Plessis-Allan.

Here's how you know Labour has a ready-to-go plan: it has already ruled out three taxes. Capital Gains Tax on the family home. Land tax under the family home. Raising income tax. You don't rule taxes out unless you know your tax plan doesn't need them.

That makes no sense at all. Even if Labour has a plan ready to go, which is a good thing, they can still make changes (outside of existing election promises) because of what the Tax Working Group advises.

What's more, it's going to become pretty hard for Labour to king-hit National on issues of trust when it's also starting to look a little untrustworthy.

In the real world the king-hit was already made by the media when English got caught out lying about Todd Barclay... it was made when they again got caught illegally spying on Greenpeace. Joyce then landed a king-hit on his own team when he started flailing wildly about a fiscal hole that doesn't exist.

The National party has got themselves bogged down in scandals leading into the election, and all the spinning in the world won't help them to now gain the higher ground.

National has fiddled about the edges while the housing crisis has grown exponentially worse. That issue alone has the potential to really burn English badly at the polls. A declining home ownership rate, 40,000 homeless Kiwi’s, unaffordable and unhealthy housing is essentially John Key’s woeful legacy for New Zealand, a terrible legacy of debt that can only be fixed by a change of government.


There is no chance of English landing a king-hit when his hands are bound by National’s numerous political failings which are clearly on display this election. While the knives can be heard sharpening behind his back, English has fallen into Joyce’s hole and been hog tied by his deputy’s flapping gums.

National trying to gain momentum with worn out rhetoric, numerous election bribes and pathetic memes about how bad Jacinda Ardern would be as Prime Minister while the facts slap National in the face is a campaign disaster of monumental proportions.

The chance for English to land a king-hit has come and gone with his lacklustre performance in the leaders debates. Right wing journalists can pine all they like for the bad old days of Teflon John... but those days are thankfully well and truly over.