Socialist group demands Government to 'tax the rich' on motorway banner

Ryan Bridge 05/06/2019

A spokesperson for the advocacy group that hung a "tax the rich" banner off an Auckland motorway has been grilled over what defines a wealthy person. 

Justine Sachs, spokesperson for Organise Aotearoa, said she believes wealthy people are "not paying their fair share, and the working class and public service is suffering because of it". 

When asked to describe who those people are, she told Magic Talk's Ryan Bridge:

The top 10 percent that own 59 percent of this country's wealth.

Sachs said New Zealand's tax system isn't "progressive", telling Bridge: "If you're a millionaire, you're paying about the same amount as someone who earns $70,000."

She was referring to income tax rates which vary depending in income levels. The top tax rate in New Zealand is 33 percent for those who earn over $70,000. 

Bridge asked Sachs if she was aware that those earning over $70,000 accounted for 63 percent of all tax, to which she replied: "We're not really interested in taxing people's wages; we're interested in taxing profits."

Sachs questioned Bridge on how much he earns - which he told her is private. She then speculated that he "earns a lot more than the people listening to this". 

"It's very well and good for you to give me this lecture, but for nurses and teachers - the most a [secondary] teacher can earn in this country is $78,000, and that's at the top of their career," Sachs said. "That's not good enough."

I just want to say, I'm not a novice - I've researched this.

The Government's rejection of a capital gains tax in April is what motivated Organise Aotearoa to hang the "tax the rich" banner off an overbridge in Ellerslie on Tuesday. 

The organisation also spoke out against the Budget released last week. In a statement earlier this week Sachs said: "All we saw was yet another austerity Budget that places the interests of the few over the many."

Sachs told Bridge workers are not being paid "the full value of their labour". She pointed to large companies that make profits "collectively", suggesting workers should get a bigger slice of the cake. 

She used Apple as an example, stating that the workers from manufacturing to transport and sales are responsible for the profits the company collects.

Bridge told Sachs that profits made by large companies can be used to invest in research and development, and "new ventures which create new jobs".

Sachs replied: "I'm saying workers don't get nearly enough of their fair share.

It's because we don't tax profits collectively made.

She referred to a story she'd been following about US grocery store workers who "recently went on strike, and in the two weeks that they went on strike, the company lost, I think it was $11 million - I don't have the exact figure". 

Bridge replied: "You probably should. If you're going to hang a banner over a busy motorway at rush-hour in Auckland, and say 'tax the rich', you should probably have your facts right."

Bridge also asked Sachs if Organise Aotearoa had sought permission to hang the motorway banner and if they had considered the potential danger that it might cause being a distraction to drivers.

Sachs said she read the local bylaws, and "made sure that there were sufficient grips as well as pulley on it so that nothing dangerous would happen".

Ryan Bridge is on Magic Talk Drive Weekdays 3-6pm.