27 Aug 2014

English hints at 'moderate' tax cuts

1:46 pm on 27 August 2014

Finance Minister Bill English has given his strongest indication yet about the level of any cuts should National be returned to government.

At a debate for the various party finance spokespeople in Queenstown last night, Mr English was also asked to defend his party's integrity in the light of the Dirty Politics allegations.

A large crowd turned out for the Queenstown debate.

A large crowd turned out for the Queenstown debate. Photo: RNZ / Steve Wilde

Mr English and spokespeople from the major political parties fronted up for the debate but New Zealand First's Winston Peters refused to show because Colin Craig from the Conservatives was there.

Labour Party finance spokesperson David Parker, ACT leader Jamie Whyte and the Green Party co-leader Russel Norman joined Bill English on his electorate home turf.

Mr English hinted that any tax cuts under National would not be large, and middle- and lower- income workers might expect to benefit.

"We'll look at moderate tax cuts for low and middle income earners and the amount of money available for that is likely to be relatively small. So if people are expecting some kind of package that says you'll get twenty bucks a week, we're not going to be announcing anything like that before the election."

The audience wanted to hear Mr English account for allegations made in the Dirty Politics book about National Party staff accessing the Labour Party computer system and removing private data.

Mr English said he did not condone that sort of behaviour.

Dr Norman launched an attack over the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, suggesting the talks were secret because New Zealanders will hate what is in it and that it will undermine the country's democracy.

Asked whether the government should release the position held by New Zealand in the talks, Mr English told the audience the government could not release those details while negotiations were underway.

David Parker called Mr English irresponsible because of his position on superannuation. Mr Parker said paying retirees will cost the country more than the education and social welfare budgets in 30 years time.

But Mr English said he was comfortable with the numbers and the Prime Minister's stance at the previous election that he would rather resign than put up the retirement age.

He said that position remained going into this election, and the only way the National Party's view on superannuation would change was if there was a change in the leadership.

Mr English told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme this morning there was no room to afford large tax cuts.

He said National would not be stating specific plans for tax cuts before the election, but the broad parameters of its future plans would be announced.

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