Damned if he does, dog tucker if he doesn't. Phil Goff's promise to remove GST from fresh fruit and vegetables might be interpreted as a sign Labour has gone completely ga-ga. There is method in the party's seeming madness, however.
This is an interesting piece from Armstrong. He suggests that this policy is more about ensuring that Labour is not embarrassed in the Mana by-election than anything else. He suggests that Labour is making a play for its core constituency with a reference to the "state house enclave" of Porirua East. He dissects Labour's policy, and suggests that they have an opportunity to gain some traction.
But just when you think that Phil Goff might be enjoying his bircher meusli and his morning latte comes the first barb - read on:
A further, more expedient factor was Labour's "Axe the Tax" campaign to stop the GST rise. Labour always knew it would not be able to unwind the increase - something Goff admitted when the new policy was officially unveiled last Monday. That admission got little coverage. The announcement of the fruit and vege exemption spared Labour's blushes.
But not completely. Goff has faced charges that this is a difference-for-difference's sake gimmick which would not only be an administrative hassle, but, worse, sets an unwelcome precedent which will fray the whole fabric of GST.
"Labour always knew it would not be able to unwind the increase"; that's not what Phil Goff told the nation as Labour's big, red, taxpayer-funded bus headed of down the road earlier in the year was it? Labour was going to Axe the Tax. We now know that Phil Goff has no intention whatsoever of axing the rise in GST; his publicity stunt was based on a lie, and we, as taxpayers, picked up the tab.
And then comes barb #2:
The policy switch must have required some in the Labour caucus to swallow hard. There have been some feeble attempts to justify the abandoning of the party's long-held opposition to exemptions on the grounds that GST at 15 per cent becomes a far more regressive tax penalising the less well-off.
Such arguments cannot shroud the real reasons behind what is a major policy shift for Labour, however.
That change has been accompanied by a major attitude shift. Labour has distributed a flyer which seeks to deliberately trick people into thinking that National is responsible for the entire GST component of their bills.
Just as scurrilous is Labour's bogus assurance that the $270 million cost (at least) of forgoing GST on fresh fruit and veges will be funded by the recent rise in excise duty on tobacco. That money is already accounted for in Government spending.
John Armstrong is nobody's fool. He would not be accusing the major opposition party of deliberate deceit if he was not certain of his facts. He has done his readers a service this morning by pointing out Phil Goff and Labour's hypocrisy in this area. Labour, it seems, is very slow to learn the lesson from its 2008 drubbing.