Labour back to the edible basics
The Labour Party chose Pataka Museum to announce its policy on cutting GST on fresh fruit and vegetables should the party return to power at next year’s general election.
The Helen Smith Room was packed for last Monday’s speech from Opposition leader Phil Goff, with media and television cameras fighting for room with Labour supporters. Prior to the announcement, Mr Goff introduced Mana by-election candidate Kris Faafoi, who is contesting the Mana seat left vacant by Winnie Laban.
Mr Goff acknowledged children from Holy Family School, who were there to sing a song, and admired the box of fruit in their midst.
He said although Labour had kicked off the Fruit in Schools programme, it wasn’t enough for families, hence the policy to take GST off fresh fruit and vegetables.
‘‘We’re taking the full 15 per cent off. We understand the huge pressures families are facing because of rising prices, while there haven’t been wage increases at the same time, and now this extra 2.5 per cent comes on October 1 [GST rose to 15 per cent on Friday]. It’s time there was a sense of fairness and doing what’s right.’’
Mr Goff said New Zealand’s high obesity levels in children was of particular concern and making fresh fruit and vegetables more accessible to lowerincome families, could arrest that. He said New Zealand’s two big supermarket chains, Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises, had told him removing GST from produce would not add to their costs.
‘‘We figure it will cost around $250 million out of the government coffers to do this and give $300 or $400 back to families every year,’’ he said.
‘‘It will be welcomed by people locally and across New Zealand. We want to bring down the cost of living and help them make the choice for healthier food.’’
National’s Mana by-election candidate Hekia Parata labelled the move a ‘‘gimmick’’ and suggested a more practical move was to encourage people to buy their produce from the Saturday market in Porirua’s city centre.
She said National’s tax switch policy is far better for the economy and for average families than taking the GST off fruit and vegetables, which ‘‘misses the mark’’ and is about scoring political points.
‘‘If we were to believe Labour’s figures, the removal of GST from fresh fruit and vegetables would amount to savings of around $1-a-week per person.
‘‘Furthermore, it would seriously complicate the tax system, inevitably lead to legal challenges about what’s in and what’s out, and would provide the greatest benefit to higher income earners. It will do precisely nothing to promote growth or create jobs.’’