Do the sums: paper boys don’t vote and 600 or so lost elderly votes won’t be crippling

The 500 or so folk who attended the National Party’s northern regional convention in Auckland yesterday were addressed by Bill English, who would have cheered them up hugely by telling them National will romp home for a third term at the next election.

He reeled off a few vital points in our favour, such as maintaining public trust by continuing to deliver on the party’s promises and not bringing in unexpected large-scale changes.

Alf would like to heave heard this himself, after sitting through the session that enacted legislation putting into effect tax changes set out in the Budget.

It was the Taxation (Budget Measures) Bill, which scrapped a few tax credits of no great consequence.

Radio New Zealand has given an account of it (or a bit of it) here

The tax credit for children in part-time work is to be dropped and replaced by a limited exemption. About 68,600 children receive the tax credit, which averages about $240 each.

Any child earning over $2340 per year will have to pay tax on every dollar they earn.

All this tax stuff is apt to leave Alf bewildered and he simply leaves things to his accountant to sort out.

The way he understands it (and he was paying close attention to the debate), children previously could claim a tax refund when tax had already been correctly deducted by their employer.

Bill explained that the tax exemption was outdated and no longer served its original purpose.

So he lumped the youngest income workers in with cuts to tax credits for incomes under $9880 and the childcare and housekeeper tax credit.

He is counting on a saving of $117 million over the next four years.

In the grand scheme of things, $117 million is peanuts, so it’s a measure of Labour’s preoccupation with trivia that they kept banging on about this while debating the Budget and the billions of dollars it involves.

They were playing to an audience of press gallery hacks who are apt to seize on this sort of thing.

The Radio NZ report said –

Labour MP David Cunliffe said the centrepiece of the Budget is to raid the piggy banks of 68,000 children.

“Paperboys and papergirls are going to be pick-pocketed by this Government. It is so laughable, so risible, so pathetic that it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.”

But Alf’s mate Todd McClay put the Nats’ view of things quite nicely when he said the tax changes will be invested in more productive areas of the economy.

“And I say to the members opposite, if they believe that we shouldn’t be passing this legislation and we should be borrowing that extra $349 million, give up your seats, get off the list, get on the plane and go to Greece.”

A quick drive across the Pahiatua Track brings Alf to the Manawatu, where the local rag has been banging on about the paper boy thing too.

Paper boy Cameron Worboys delivers the Feilding Herald to businesses once a week and earns about $50 a month.

His wages get spent on gadgets and games and he said he will have to save up for longer to buy what he wants, but he was philosophical about the cut in his net income.

“I suppose adults get taxed but it will still be a bit of shock as it hasn’t happened before.”

The 15 year-old Palmerston North Boys’ High student delivers 150 papers a week and runs around the shops and offices to get his job done as quickly as possible before they close.

Mrs Grumble hasn’t got around to checking where the rag sits on broadening the tax base. Betcha the buggers are in favour of it.

Back in the House, once the small matter of the tax credits had been disposed of, Parliament went on to tackle a bill that will result in more elderly people paying for their own residential care.

This drew heavy flak from the Labour wastrels for not having been mentioned by Bill English in the Budget and for being put through under urgency.

Before the legislation was passed, the value of assets someone could hold and still get subsidised rest home care was limited to $210,000.

The threshold increases by $10,000 in July this year, but under the change it will increase only at the rate of inflation.

This means fewer of the old folk will be eligible for a subsidy.

Critics are wailing that the policy is retrospective and has been passed into law without select committee scrutiny.

They also complain that Bill made no mention in his Budget speech on Thursday of the move.

They should be focusing on the prospect it will save $16.4 million a year by the 2015/16 financial year.

Grey Power national president Roy Reid was warbling about the change punishing those who save for their retirement while rewarding those who don’t.

He says people will simply move assets into family trusts to avoid paying for rest home costs.

Good for them. This obviously will create a bit more work for lawyers, accountants and what-have-you, and creating more work is what the Budget aimed to do besides restoring a surplus.

As for the political costs, Alf reckons they are negligible, because the Ministry of Health estimates only 170 people will be affected in the first year, rising to 610 by 2015/16.

This helps to explain why Bill believes National will romp home for a third term.

He told the northern conference the public has learned to trust the instincts of Prime Minister John Key.

“Because they trust his instincts, they trust the Government to maintain support for the most vulnerable, to ensure that the necessary changes we need to make are going to be fair to all New Zealanders. We need to stick to that.”

Maybe Winston Peters will pick up a few votes from aggrieved retirees, but Alf will lose no sleep.

We will get votes from the lawyers and the accountants.

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