Auckland Central debate: Tax the rich or 'capital flight'?

August 23, 2023

Auckland Central debate: Tax the rich or 'capital flight'?

Audience members at the debate. Photo: Kexin Li

In a spirited debate between Auckland Central electorate candidates on Monday evening, some audience members were shouting out to tax the rich.

Incumbent Chloe Swarbrick (Greens) faced off with Damian Sycamore (The Opportunities Party), Mahesh Muralidhar (National) and Felix Poole (ACT) in a lecture hall at the University of Auckland to discuss the electorate’s most pressing issues.

The debate was moderated by NZ Herald podcast host Damien Venuto.

Topics included the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, law and order, transport, housing and climate change.

A wealth tax and capital-gains tax were contentious sticking points, bringing a lively response from the audience.

The “tax the rich” calls started when Poole spoke on the issue of funding public transport.

Debaters at the meeting (from left): Damian Sycamore (The Opportunities Party), Chloe Swarbrick (Greens), Mahesh Muralidhar (National), Oscar Simms (Labour) and Felix Poole (ACT).

“So the better question to ask than how we tax people more is where else can we get the funding?”

The audience responded to this by shouting out the “rich”, followed by laughter.

In response, Poole said: “If private clients are willing to give money to the Government to build infrastructure, I think that’s actually a very good idea."

Taxing the rich was not, because it would cost too much to evaluate people's wealth, he said.

Poole said it could drive people away from New Zealand, resulting in “capital flight”.

National Party candidate Muralidhar agreed, saying that the Green Party’s proposed wealth tax would destroy New Zealand’s economy and drive entrepreneurs and investors away.

Sims said the Labour Party had ruled out a capital gains tax and said, “No” to a wealth tax.

It got to the point where Muralidhar, after saying New Zealand couldn’t afford free public transport and university fees, preempted hecklers by shouting back himself at the audience members, “Tax the rich”, before they had the chance.

National and Act supporters also attended, stamping their feet when investing in the roads, the economy and an end to wasteful spending were mentioned.

Despite the differences, the meeting was largely a jovial affair.

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