Business at breakneck speed

Labour made a meal yesterday of the debate in the House on the Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill, complaining the urgency motion prevented public input into the tax changes being introduced by the Government.

The frenetic pace is set to continue until late next week, by which time there will have been some major changes to the way New Zealand views health, education, law and order, labour relations and tax.

Labour finance spokesman and shadow leader of the House Michael Cullen questioned the speed of legislation through the House, but Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee dismissed the complaint.

Mr Brownlee said everything he had learned about running the House had come from watching Dr Cullen in government, and he was merely learning at the feet of the master.

Dr Cullen was at his debating best, calling National's tax Bill a return to the 1990s.

He claimed former National finance minister Ruth Richardson had coined the phrase "going for growth", which was used by Prime Minister John Key in his speech on Tuesday.

"What did National do in 1990 when it came in? It gutted employment law and cut the income of New Zealand's poorest people. What is it doing now? Introducing fire-at-will legislation and cutting the income of many of the lowest paid New Zealanders."

As Finance Minister Bill English pointed out to Dr Cullen, voters had rejected Labour's tax package at the election, voting instead for the package outlined by National.

It should come as no surprise, then, that National wanted to introduce its legislation with some urgency.

There had been ample opportunity in the past 12 months to poke and prod and discuss the differences in the tax policies of the two major parties, Mr English said.

Labour continually hammered the theme that lower-paid New Zealanders - those earning between $14,000 and $24,000 - would be worse off by about $9 a week, a figure Dr Cullen said was a lot of money for those scrambling to pay their bills.

Mr English countered that no-one was worse off under National's tax package, and said 630,000 people earning up to $44,000 a year were better off, because they would from April 1 receive the independent earners rebate.

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