National goads Leary over wealth tax policy comments

Ingrid Leary. Photo: ODT files
Ingrid Leary. Photo: ODT files
Labour Taieri MP Ingrid Leary surprisingly occupied the centre of the election campaign stage yesterday, as comments she made at a Wingatui meet-the-candidates evening were seized on by National as "evidence" of a plot to depose Chris Hipkins as party leader.

Ms Leary had told the Monday night meeting, organised by the Mosgiel Rotary Club, that while a capital gains tax had been ruled out by Mr Hipkins, it could be something to be considered in the future.

National has been hammering Labour on its tax policy for months, and Ms Leary’s comments were yesterday elevated from a small town hall meeting to the National campaign’s main attack line for the day.

Campaign chairman Chris Bishop said "Labour loves tax like a shark loves blood, and Hipkins’ colleagues are circling", citing Ms Leary’s comments that "the prime minister has ruled out a wealth tax and a capital gains tax as long as he’s leader and I absolutely support that captain’s call".

"Having said that, the single biggest legacy I’d like to leave in my time as an MP is I’d like to leave a transparent and fairer tax system."

Mr Bishop said Ms Leary was the latest in a long line of Labour MPs, including Finance Minister Grant Robertson, former revenue minister David Parker and Wellington Central candidate Ibrahim Omer, to express support for a capital gains tax or wealth tax.

Mr Bishop said new taxes would be likely "once the caucus rolls Chris Hipkins as leader".

Ms Leary’s comments were "a clear inference" Mr Hipkins was under threat.

"It’s all on."

Ms Leary yesterday laughed off Mr Bishop’s claims as "a load of rubbish".

She said a wealth or capital gains tax was not Labour policy.

"The person recording the meeting conveniently forgot to mention that I also said I think we have a fantastic prime minister who I see leading us into the future."

Mr Hipkins, convalescing in an Auckland hotel room after contracting Covid-19, was equally as dismissive of Mr Bishop’s claims.

"I don’t really understand what mischief they are trying to make here," Mr Hipkins said.

"Ingrid Leary was absolutely categorically certain that we would not be introducing a wealth tax."

Ms Leary yesterday told the Otago Daily Times she had clearly told the meeting that capital gains or welfare taxes were not policy for Labour should it win, and the caucus had agreed.