Wednesday 18th September 2013
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New Zealand's Treasury department, the government's lead economic policy advisor, was accused of expressing ideological right wing views in a parliamentary select committee for calling tax a "burden".
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman questioned Treasury officials presenting the department's long-term fiscal strategy to the finance and expenditure select committee whether the use of the term "tax burden" was a policy neutral way to describe tax, saying it reflected Treasury's ideological position.
"I see your point actually," Treasury senior analyst Becky Prebble said in response. "It is funny the things you sometimes say without really thinking about it."
Committee chair Paul Goldsmith asked if Norman would prefer the term "tax opportunity".
"If you think tax is a burden that is just an ideological right-wing position," Norman said. "I would just call it tax if I was a public servant trying to have a politically neutral approach to a debate on tax. I wouldn't call it a tax burden which is a politically loaded right-wing term."
Treasury officials were presenting their latest statement on the nation's long-term fiscal position, which was published in July. The report, which must be produced every four years, shows that on the current track, revenue will fail to meet expenses by the mid-2020s.
Officials cited tax, superannuation and healthcare as the three main areas where government policy changes offered the biggest possibility for closing the gap. The reports aim to stir public debate around choices rather than put forward recommendations.
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