Ouch! Adams and Collins shoot themselves in the feet
By Richard Harman (author)
Simon Bridges unveiled National’s new line-up yesterday and as expected the big prizes went to his most loyal supporters.
But the announcement was somewhat over shadowed by an embarrassing series of statements from the new finance spokesperson, Amy Adams and the new housing spokesperson, Judith Collins over comments from Finance Minister Grant Robertson on Friday.
Bridges was left having to clear up the confusion at his press conference announcing his new lineup.
Robertson had said the Government was making big investments in Auckland’s Central Rail link and in a series of different rail links.
“People will benefit from that,” he said.
“How can we capture the value of that and use it to help fund the development?”
He was talking about a tax called “Value Capture” which has been used on projects like London’s Crossrail to impose a special rate on land adjacent to the development which inevitably rises in value as a consequence of the new rail link.
In effect, it’s a tax on the value windfall that property owners adjacent to the development get.
It has been promoted in New Zealand by bodies like Infrastructure New Zealand and was under consideration by the last Government.
But that didn’t stop Judith Collins from tweeting: “Here we go! Tax, tax, tax. Is NZFirst going to support this envy tax. Finance Minister Grant Robertson considering property 'value capture' tax to fund rail.”
And Amy Adams chimed in: “Another day, another new tax being proposed by the coalition Government. Yet another attempt from Grant Robertson to make everyone else pay for all his promises.”
Given that Bridges was the Transport Minister who promoted Value Capture in the last Government, he was left having to publicly counter two of his most senior spokespeople
And he confirmed that he had been considering value capture and that it was proposed to help finance the Penlink road in Auckland.
He told a press conference yesterday that things like Value Capture and Public-private Partnerships and other private sector initiatives could play a big role in helping finance infrastructure.
“What you have got here is a situation where the new Government knows it hasn’t got enough money to do infrastructure and they are looking for other ways to do it," he said.
“One of those is a tax ion Aucklanders (the regional petrol tax).
“We don’t agree with that.
""But regarding some of the other more creative solutions, we think they are definitely worth exploring, and it's good that Grant Robertson is now looking seriously at them.”
Collins has been promoted to Number Four in the Shadow Cabinet and did not get the regional development portfolio as was expectedget , but instead has been given Housing and RMA reform.
That will allow her to go head to head with Phil Twyford - arguably one of Labour's more effective Ministers.
After her, of the next six positions on the front bench, five have gone to MPs believed to have supported Bridges in the leadership contest: Todd McClay, Jonathan Coleman, Jami-Lee Ross; Paul Goldsmith and Gerry Brownlee.
Mark Mitchell, who declared his candidacy for the leadership and then withdrew has been given Justice and Nikky Kaye keeps education.
Brownlee remains as Shadow Leader of the House but has lost Foreign Affairs to Todd McClay, a close confidant of Bridges.
Mitchell will have been disappointed by that decision because of the way the former Minister, Murray McCully, appeared to groom him for the portfolio when he chaired the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
But Jami Lee Ross and Paul Goldsmith are the big winners with Ross getting infrastructure and transport and Goldsmith regional development and revenue.
Interestingly, apart from Nikki Kaye, the MPs who appeared with Adams at her press conference to announce her candidacy appear to have been despatched down the caucus hierarchy.
Maggie Barry has been demoted from 15 to 25; Tim McIndoe from 23 to 31 and Chris Bishop stays on 38.
Barry has also lost Conservation to the high flying Sarah Dowie.
“I’m really confident knowing her that her mix of experience as a lawyer and a manager in the Department of Conservation should bring fresh energy to that portfolio that will be exciting to watch,” said Bridges.
Melissa Lee has also jumped from 29 to 20.
"She has really given Clare Curran a go-round in Parliament," he said.
“She has been very effective in opposition.
“I fervently hope she will be New Zealand’s first Korean Minister.”
There will be changes to National’s whips too with Barbara Kuriger now Senior whip, Matt Doocey, junior whip and the new Waikato MP, Tim van der Moelen, the third whip.
There are some signals in the list.
Nicky Wagener, Andrew Bayly, Shane Reti, Alistair Scott and Jo Hayes are the bottom five MPs who have already served at least one term. Time for them to go?
So for the first time since 2008, there is real change on National's front bench.
Bridges says he wants the caucus to now become a “56 MP policy factory for National”.
But before they start rewriting policy, it might pay for them all to know what the existing policy is.