John Key’s weird “gotcha” moment on ACC

Andrew Little was pushing the Prime Minister today on the fact that he’s ripping off workers and businesses to the tune of $350 million in ACC levies in order to generate his much-promised, never-delivered budget surplus.

Desperate to throw mud any way he could, Key took this patsy question from Tim MacIndoe:

 

Here’s the release in question.* That’s right, folks: apparently Andrew Little is a hypocrite because in 2009 he said levies were being raised unnecessarily high in order to prop up National’s political agenda, and in 2015 he’s saying levies are being kept unnecessarily high in order to prop up National’s political agenda.

Breathtaking, isn’t it? A real knockout punch, from the OTT reactions of Macindoe and Ross sitting behind him.

But maybe that does sound like hypocrisy to someone like John Key, to whom going back on his previously-held positions is second nature, whether it’s promising to resign over mass surveillance of New Zealanders, promising to apologise to victims of sexual assault, or promising he hasn’t had contact with Cameron Slater.

The surprising thing is what a terribly weak attack line this is. Since Key and his office lost Jason Ede it’s like all the pizzazz has gone out of the dirty politics machine.

*And no, there’s no conspiracy in me posting that link; it’s the top result when you google “andrew little acc levies epmu”, so calm down, Chaos & Mayhem.

Little: ACC levies need to come down

Most of the attention on today’s episode of Q&A focused on the two biggest issues in NZ politics at the moment – the Northland by-election and Nicky Hager’s most recent GCSB revelations.

But in Andrew Little’s interview with Heather du Plessis-Allan – amongst her blatant, failed attempts to get him to say “I’m telling people to vote for Winston” and “I support 90-day trials” – he raised another issue which highlights some of the weird hypocrisies of our present government.

Labour has an independent report which estimates that business and workers are being collectively overcharged about $350 million every year in ACC levies. ACC is currently running robust reserves, much of which is invested overseas. If some of that unneeded cash were returned to the pockets of people and businesses, it would create enough economic activity to generate 700 new jobs.

For workers at the bottom of the heap, or small businesses running on tight margins, even a few hundred dollars extra per year could be a significant factor in keeping their heads above water.

The irony is this: the Government’s repeatedly had advice – from that well-know communist thinktank, the Treasury – that ACC levies are too high. They’ve taken baby steps towards it, with cuts totalling about $115 million coming into force in April.

This is the National Party – the party which slashed the top tax rate during a recession so its wealthy backers could buy more investment properties, the party which campaigned hard on the idea that Labour wanted to introduce “FIVE NEW TAXES!!!!” – refusing to cut an unnecessary cost which would actually help families, businesses and the wider economy. Purely by coincidence, those unnecessary levies (as Grant Robertson did back in February) are probably helping to keep the Government’s books in surplus.

It kind of tells you everything about their priorities, doesn’t it?

Three more years

This election result is not the end of the world for me.

I don’t have kids. I don’t have to worry about whether their school will be closed, or privatised, whether they have shoes to wear or a lunch to take to school every morning. I don’t have to find the money for “voluntary donations” which are needed to cover the basic costs of their education, or desperately search for flexible work which fits around daycare, if I can even find daycare.

I don’t have any chronic illnesses. I don’t have to worry about fighting tooth and nail to access the support I need just to manage my condition. I don’t have to worry about being bullied into “seeking work” when it’s impossible for me, and the jobs aren’t there. I don’t have to wonder how I’m going to pay for all the prescriptions I need.

I have a well-paid job with a great employer. I don’t have to worry about being fired on a 90 day trial, paid less than a living wage, or having to argue just for the right to a rest break in the middle of my shift.

I don’t have trouble paying the bills. I don’t have to worry about the price of power now that our power companies are increasingly privatised and being run for profit over service.

I don’t work in a high-risk job. I don’t have to worry about dealing with ACC over workplace injuries while my negligent boss gets to fly away to his next role without any consequences.

I’m a homeowner. I don’t have to worry about living in a damp, drafty house which makes me sick, or trying to put together enough to buy my first home when the mortgage is going to take 50% of my take-home pay.

I’ve never been a victim of sexual or domestic violence. I don’t have to worry about whether the local refuge is going to be able to keep its doors open, or

I don’t live in Christchurch. I don’t have to worry about soaring rents, living in a tent in someone’s back yard, or waiting four years just to get a basic insurance claim settled.

I’m not a public servant, or a striking worker. I don’t have to worry about my name and personal information appearing online and in the media when a Cabinet Minister decides they don’t like what I have to say.

So I may not suffer much under three more years of National in government. Because I am incredibly lucky. To quote people who aren’t as lucky as me:

https://twitter.com/writehandedgirl/status/513283402464624640

The campaign for 2017 begins now, because we have to do better for everyone.