Green top choice for coalition partner – with deal possible on bold tax reform

Sunday 13 January 2008, 9:31AM
By Green Party

The Green Party is the most preferred coalition partner for National or Labour if one gets the first chance to form a government after this year's general election.

Fifty seven per cent think National will get the first chance to form a government, while 38% think Labour will, according to research released today.

And one of the most interesting coalition policy plank possibilities – supported most by Green voters – is a significant reform of the tax system, to bring in a single personal and corporate tax rate of 20 cents in the dollar.

National might also find a cross party deal on the flat tax possible with other parties whose voters favour it ahead of other options, including the Maori, New Zealand First and ACT parties.

In a column published in the Herald on Sunday today, the Chief Executive of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, Peter Neilson, says research conducted by Shape NZ shows other National-Green policy platforms on emissions trading and climate change and health reforms are also favoured by each of the parties' voters.

Nearly six out of 10 New Zealanders believe National has the best chance of leading the formation of the next Government, according to 1275 respondents to a nationwide survey conducted between November 23 – December 7, 2007. Weighted by age, gender, employment status, person income and party vote 2005 to provide a representative sample of the New Zealand population compared with the 2006 census, the survey has a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5% on the national sample.

Mr Neilson says National voters are supremely confident their party will get the first chance to form a government: 90 out of every 100 expect this. Among other parties' voters 52% of New Zealand First and 78% of United Future voters also expect National to have the best chance of forming a coalition.

Undecided voters think National will have first chance by 49% to 40%.

Sixty four of our every 100 Labour voters still think Labour has the best chance of forming a coalition, a view shared by Green, Jim Anderton's Progressive and Maori Party voters. Those newly eligible to vote favour Labour's chances by 48% to National's 30%.

A National-Green- Maori Party-New Zealand First-ACT party cross deal on bringing in a new single tax rate of 20 cents in the dollar, funded by increasing GST from 12.5 to 20% - is most favoured by voters for these parties.

Mr Neilson says a National-Green-Maori Party pact on emissions trading and climate change is another possible coalition platform. This might also deliver 44% of undecided voters and 51% of those voting for the first time this year – who currently support plans for a new carbon market.

Other planks include a health policy deal gaining support from all voters to judiciously use public-private partnerships to boost elective surgery capacity and cut waiting lists. A policy to separate urgent from elective surgery at public hospitals – so those who've been waiting patiently for operations are not bumped at the last moment by car crash victims will also find good cross party support.

In his personal column published today, Mr Neilson says: "The only really bad headline National had all last year was one saying it could govern alone. That's unlikely.

"New Zealanders didn't vote for MMP to allow a single party to govern. Coalition deals will probably be needed.

"The published polls show National with a majority among 'decided voters'. What you don't see are the number of undecided voters. When the views of all respondents are considered, the single party majority disappears.

"A betting person would say John Key will need to stitch up a deal with the Greens. Helen Clark has proved the master of MMP coalition making, and now she and Key will need to develop some bold new long term policies which will enjoy widespread support from a number of parties' supporters. If National seeks a partnership with the Greens or Maori Party it is not too hard to see where core policy conflicts might arise."

ShapeNZ asked people to chose between three tax reform options: cutting top personal income tax rates from 39c to 30c; cutting the top personal and corporate tax rates to 28 cents, or introducing a single rate of 20 cents, paid for by increasing GST from 12.5% to 20% (while fully compensating people of low incomes and benefits for price rises resulting from the GST increase).

The 20cents in the dollar option is the one most favoured by Green Voters (27%, compared with 6% for the 30c and 14% for the 28c options), ACT (53%), NZ First (35%) and Maori Party (37%).

When asked about tax reform's impact on their vote this year, 48% of all respondents say achieving a balance between personal income tax cuts and maintaining social spending will be the main influence on which party they vote for. (32% will be swayed by policies other than tax and 13% by tax policy alone).

"The challenge for the main parties now is to break free from old policy paradigms. Kiwis will go for bold if New Zealand is to do better long term from the change. They will back innovation, and will support economic growth. The caveat is don't wreck the place while we're doing that. Keep the social and environmental fabric intact, and preferably enhance it," Mr Neilson says.

"So who will be bold with long term, equitable, reform policies in tax, education, health and climate change? That party will have the best chance of developing cross party support to form the next MMP government."

(Peter Neilson is Chief Executive of the New Zealand Business Council for sustainable Development. ShapeNZ research is on the web at www.shapenz.co.nz and www.nzbcsd.org.nz. The views expressed here are based on ShapeNZ research and do not necessarily represent the views of the Business Council or any member company.)