Opinion

Could the Prime Minister be about to make a u-turn on a wealth tax?

One of the in vogue politicism for Prime Ministers to make is to swear on their job they won't do something. 

For example, John Key said he'd resign as Prime Minister before he'd raise the superannuation age from 65. 

Jacinda Ardern, maybe because she saw the success of that - said exactly the same thing when she came into office. 

Could the Prime Minister be about to make a u-turn on a wealth tax?
The indicator suggests she's about to make a u-turn...but she could still pull out of the manoeuvre.
00:00 / 02:27

And I've noticed in recent years it's become the question du jour for reporters: "Will you resign as PM before XYZ happens?"

It's a great way of getting a straight answer because they are swearing on the very thing they love most: power. 

The PM gets a straight message out there, and the reporter gets a good headline. 

But it's also a trap for the PM - they have no way out of it. There's very little room for a painless U-Turn. 

In 2020, reporters set the trap for Ardern on the election campaign trail, on the issue of a wealth tax: 

"Would you resign before you put in a wealth tax? I won't allow it to happen as Prime Minister"

That's an emphatic statement. I won't allow a wealth tax to happen as Prime Minister. 

Fast forward to today, with 30-year high inflation, and a completely different economic and health outlook and that position has changed. 

Here's her being interviewed on TV3 this morning; 

"But you're not ruling out the potential for a wealth tax and the potential for a stamp duty? We have not worked on our tax policy for 2023".

In other words, she's not ruling it out. 

She's not ruling out something she ruled out - and swore on her job - about two years ago. 

It creates a real conundrum for Ardern. 

Is she testing the waters to see if there's a lack of backlash about this? 

And if she does indeed go ahead with a wealth tax, what does that mean about her word? 

Do all her promises and rhetoric become empty? Can her words be trusted? 

There's no easy way out of this now she's planted the seed for a Wealth Tax policy. 

The indicator suggests she's about to make a u-turn...but she could still pull out of the manoeuvre.

And that's why people don't like politicians. It cuts to the heart of her trustworthiness.