Chlöe Swarbrick: Let's talk tax

Opinion 26/04/2019

By Chlöe Swarbrick, Green Party MP.

Tax. What do you think of when you think of tax? 

The feelings are probably pretty damn negative. You likely imagine up the oft-politically peddled cliché of money being stolen from your back pocket. 

You probably don’t think about the provision of education for kids in this country.

You may not conjure up images of cancer treatment and broken bones being fixed, for anybody and everybody in Aotearoa New Zealand who need it. You might not think about development and maintenance of the roads you use, the pipes that deliver water to your tap, the maintenance of a legal system that means you have rights when buying or contracting and the knowledge that you’ll be able to call on those rights to be enforced if things go wrong, or a financial system that enables operation and ease and security of banking. 

When we talk about tax, we don't often talk about the society - and indeed, the nation - it enables.

If we were to abolish taxation tomorrow, we would lose the maintenance of accessible education, transport, health, water, legal, enforcement, financial systems and more. 

Without taxation, a Government doesn't govern.

We give up on the idea of this country being organised as a society. We give up on the notion of ever solving issues like climate change or the mental health crisis or homelessness or inequality. 

Without taxation, we aren't a collective. We don't have the social contract that sees us look after the vulnerable, care for the sick, educate children regardless of their parent's wealth, and help each other indiscriminately when we need a hand up. 

Taxation is required for democracy.

Without taxation and the functional social institutions that go with it, we're all isolated individuals playing a twisted game of last man standing. That's simply not why we as humanity evolved to form the kinds of societies and nations we have today. 

So why, again, is talk of tax the boogeyman? Why is talk of fairness of tax warped into a narrative of 'wealth envy' - particularly when any accountant or economist you can find will say the easiest way to make money is to have it in the first place? 

We can, and must, do better.

That is, if we give a toss about genuinely tackling any of the monolithic social problems we say we do. 

The Greens will continue working and advocating for a more equitable tax system, and the social mobility, equitable freedoms and opportunities that enables everyday people in this country. Boo.

Chlöe Swarbrick is MP for the Green Party.