Audrey Young: Eight big problems for Jacinda Ardern | Talkjamz
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Audrey Young: Eight big problems for Jacinda Ardern

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Jacinda Ardern has made a less-than-grand entrance back to mundane domestic politics after her whirlwind visit to Europe last week reinforced her status as a rising star on the international stage.

The Prime Minister delegated her regular Tuesday morning media appearances to Finance Minister Grant Robertson and who could blame her? He was forced to spend most of his time defending the failure of KiwiBuild targets and preparing the groundwork for the delivery of the capital gains tax report.

She then chaired her first Cabinet of the year but only 57 per cent of its members were able to attend because of fog problems at Wellington airport.

At her first post-Cabinet press conference she announced she would be delaying any Cabinet reshuffle until after the May Budget.

That decision is likely to be less about the obvious appointment of Kris Faafoi to the Cabinet from outside Cabinet, replacing Clare Curran, and more about the dilemma of who to make a minister outside Cabinet, filling the Meka Whaitiri vacancy.

In the substance of the press conference, Ardern sounded exasperated at questions about the failure of KiwiBuild to meet its first milestone of 1000 houses by July, and by questions about the capital gains tax report.

Ardern’s tetchiness perhaps reflects a raft of challenging issues facing the Government. After a year of settling in, reviewing the past and setting priorities, 2019 will have to be a year of delivery.

Robertson played Robin to her Batman at the post-Cabinet presser, initially fronting on the Government response to the insurance industry inquiry.

The subject quickly changed to the final report of the Tax Working Group and its promised capital gains tax which is due to be handed to the Government this week.

Robertson patiently continued his mission to change the language over the tax by calling it a “capital income tax” rather than a “capital gains tax” — an attempt to equate it to all other income.

Ardern became impatient when questions turned to the undisputed veto that NZ First will have on any capital gains tax — the Greens have been unequivocal supporters and NZ First longstanding opponents.

Apparently a capital gains tax is just like every other issue the Government debates, and requires the agreement of all three parties.

She also became exasperated when questioned about the failure of KiwiBuild targets — so much so that she could not bring herself to actually say “No” when repeatedly asked if the July target would be met. The Government was still on track to achieve the overall target — building 100,000 over 10 years, she insisted.

On questions of detail, she deferred to Housing Minister Phil Twyford who will have to suffer the ignominy of getting Cabinet’s approval for a fresh and realistic set of targets.

If those targets are not met, Twyford might be facing a reshuffle of his own.

 

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