If the Labour Party wants its economic policies to be taken seriously it needs to stop making up stuff.
The trouble is, its front bench MPs are starting to believe their own bullshi*t.
This week Labour finance spokesman David Parker tried to table in Parliament a document which does not exist.
Coming as it did within 10 days of his leader, David Shearer, making a big fuss over a tape of Prime Minister John Key which turned out to have similarly ectoplasmic characteristics, this seems to be a trend in Labour political tactics.
The effort came amid a testy exchange over economic policy.
The usually mild-mannered Mr Parker sought leave to table a series of documents which he says support New Zealand adopting what he called “Labour’s pro-growth capital gains tax”.
These included reports “from the OECD, the IMF, Treasury, and the Reserve Bank”, he claimed.
MP's try to table all sorts of things. The exercise of tabling documents usually has either two purposes; to embarrass one's political opponents or to vindicate your own position. David Parker was trying to do the latter, but he was on shaky ground as Hosking continues to explain:
Mr Parker is not the first Labour MP to claim the Reserve Bank supports a capital gains tax: Mr Shearer and former finance spokesman David Cunliffe regularly make similar claims.
It’s not true. What is more they know it is not true, which is why they are usually careful to trot out this claim in front of audiences who do not know any better.
Mr Parker realised his mistake and backtracked. When asked by Speaker Lockwood Smith to name the reports, he said he could not put a date on the Reserve Bank document “so I will not pursue it”.
Labour’s proposed capital gains tax would be imposed on the country’s businesses and, while it excludes owner-occupied housing, it includes any part of the family home which is used as a home office or similar premises used for business.
It would also not be paid until a property is sold. And it would also catch the family home if it is not sold before the owners die. A family home which is inherited by offspring and then sold by them would be hit by the tax.
The only time the Reserve Bank has specifically addressed such a tax it has rejected it. This was in a submission to the Productivity Commission late last year on housing affordability.
In a particularly pointed comment aimed squarely at Labour’s tendency to just make up stuff, the Reserve Bank said it has "never taken a stance on the general merits or otherwise of capital gains taxes".
But the mix advocated by Labour – which the Reserve Bank carefully did not specifically mention by name – would create more rather than fewer distortions and would not do the job Labour politicians claim it will.
David Parker narrowly avoided misleading the House with this stunt. Perhaps if caught, he would have chosen to invoke the Shearer Burden of Proof saying that he believed that the document existed, and that it was the job of those who didn't to prove otherwise. That seems to be Labour's prevailing logic at the moment.
Does Labour still believe that the voting public doesn't see through such subterfuge? You'd have to wonder, given that the last two political polls to be published (3News/Reid Research and Roy Morgan) show Labour going backwards and National rebounding.
Just as Labour has been unable to substantiate its allegations about John Key and senior GCSB personnel, it cannot prove that the Reserve Bank supports a capital gains tax. The Shearer Burden of Proof has proved to be a fizzer, and whichever of Labour's strategic genii conceived it should be put out to pasture.