Greens take aim at child poverty

The Green Party is proposing a top tax rate of 40% on income above $140,000 to help reduce child poverty.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei announced the policy at the party launch in Auckland yesterday.

She told the Otago Daily Times the threshold had been set at $140,000 so the Green caucus would pay the extra tax - ensuring they were part of the solution.

''Every cent raised will go directly into our plan to alleviate child poverty. This will affect only 3% of all taxpayers, but the revenue raised will make the world of difference to the hundreds of thousands who need it,'' she said.

Earlier this year, Labour announced high earners would pay a tax rate of 36% on income over $150,000. Currently, the top tax bracket is 33% for people earning over $77,000.

The Green plan aims to find $1 billion to reduce child poverty.

Mrs Turei said the Greens had been the only party talking about reducing child poverty and she had done so since becoming an MP.

There were 35,000 more children growing up in severe poverty in New Zealand than there were before National came into power, she said.

Kiwi kids growing up in poverty were three times more likely to be admitted to hospital, five times more likely to die of cot death, 27 more times likely to get rheumatic fever and would die earlier than those who were better off, she said.

''Child poverty can be eliminated. We have the tools and techniques. It is simply a matter of choice.''

Child poverty was the subject of debate on TV One's Q+A yesterday between Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and Labour children's spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern.

Ms Bennett said during the debate how children lived in New Zealand was the top priority for the Government.

''I believe that how the economy is doing is absolutely most vital to those children and their families. You know we had 83,000 more jobs last year. That matters more than just about anything else we can do.''

Ms Ardern agreed work was the answer to child poverty. However, in New Zealand two out of five families in poverty had parents who were working.

''At the moment in New Zealand, we have the working poor. It's growing. Our wages aren't sufficient to mean that work is the answer the minister claims it to be - and it needs to be,'' she said.

Associate Finance Minister and National Party campaign manager Steven Joyce said the Green-Labour recipe of more and higher taxes would stall New Zealand's economic recovery just when the country was getting back on its feet after the global financial crisis.

''The Greens have today proposed a 40% top tax rate that would affect many hard-working New Zealanders, including school principals, doctors, and many small business owners,'' he said.

At a glance

• A new ''children's credit'' giving an extra $60 a week to families currently missing out, at a cost of $400 million a year.
• A non-discriminatory parental tax credit of $220 a week in the first weeks of life for the poorest children, costing $29.4 million a year.
• A $500 million-a-year investment in children's health and education to reduce harm caused by poverty.
• New tax rate of 40% on income earned above $140,000.

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