Politics

How much would former Air NZ CEO Chris Luxon make back under National tax cuts?

On Tuesday morning Tova O'Brien and opposition leader Christopher Luxon discussed pay equity between high earning millionaires in NZ versus low earning public servants who have pay freezes on their wages.

A public service pay freeze is in place until 2024 - O'Brien asked Luxon if he would commit to lifting it after the election if he won.

"No, I'm not. I'm not committing to that," Luxon responded. 

"But what I'm saying to you is the bigger question, which you've got to say is rather than think about caps and numbers, and trying to do it at a tactical level, you've actually got to step back and say, what is this? What does this actual department do? What are these actual employees doing? Are they adding value? Are they delivering outcomes or not?"

O'Brien asked if he thinks public servants do or don't deserve a pay rise to keep up with inflation, though would give himself an $18,000 tax cut as prime minister.

"You're mixing up the drinks," Said Luxon.

"The first thing we've said is that we're going to have inflation-adjusted tax thresholds. That's an idea that we want Grant Robertson to run for to help the squeezed meddle in the cost of living crisis today. 

"The broader thing we've signalled is, look, when we come to the election with our full tax and fiscal policy, fully costed, fully sorted, very comprehensive, we'll be incorporating things like unwinding the tax increases the government's put in place over the last three years."

O'Brien referenced Luxon's prior title as CEO of Air New Zealand, asking if he needed a tax cut on what would have been a sizable pay package from the company.

Luxon said he doesn't personally need a tax cut, though wants to create policy that continues to attract people to New Zealand and keep them in the country.

O'Brien asked Luxon how much he made as CEO of Air New Zealand.

"That's not relevant, Tova. The bottom line is I've just said to you, look, you know, I'm in a very successful, fortunate situation, you know, and the reality for us is that when we come to the election, we'll have a very comprehensive tax policy that will make sure that we are in a fiscal costed plan that will be very clear for everyone."

O'Brien continued to say that "it is relevant because it speaks to how much people on much, much higher incomes would be getting with your tax cuts and those on comparatively lower incomes."

O'Brien said the last sum she had seen that would represent that CEO pay packets were around $4.6 million NZD.

She once again asked Luxon "how big would Air New Zealand's CEO Chris Luxon's tax cut be on that $4.6 million salary that you were on?"

Luxon didn't answer, reciting the policy he and National are looking to implement.

O'Brien pressed again, saying "if you got rid of the $180k tax threshold, your tax cut as CEO of Air New Zealand would be $270,000 - more than a quarter of a million dollars. Does that seem right to you?"

"We have a progressive tax system," Luxon said.

"We have the top 3 percent of New Zealand paying 24 percent of income tax and we have the top 9 percent paying 42 percent of all income tax. They pay a higher proportion of their salary in tax."

O'Brien responded by saying "Your CEO tax cut would get you $270,000 versus a nurse who gets $800. So riddle me how that is fair. Why are you getting rid of that upper tax threshold?"

Luxon responded by saying "When we come to the election we'll have a comprehensive tax policy and all we've been signalling is we're going to be unwinding the tax increases like the bright-line test, like the interest deductibility. We certainly don't want to see national awards and we don't want to see national income insurance schemes as well.

"And so those things that the government's wanting to push through with stealth taxes, we don't think have added a lot of all the value and have actually constrained the economy. And so for us, rest assured, when we get to the election, you'll see it in the context of a full tax policy."

Listen to the full interview between National Party Leader Christopher Luxon and Tova above.

You can also download the full interview on the Tova podcast, and listen on the go. Check it out on the rova app or wherever you get your podcasts.