Labour's new tax policy has claimed its first Parliamentary victim, with Finance Minister Bill English ejected from the the House of Representatives in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon while debating the effectiveness of a capital gains tax.
English was given his marching orders by Speaker Lockwood Smith during Question Time, after carrying on speaking and attacking Labour's policy while Smith was on his feet in an attempt to halt English's answer - a big no-no in Parliament's rules.
English had been asked by Labour’s Trevor Mallard: “In light of the Prime Minister’s statement that we actually have a capital gains tax in New Zealand, what is the current list of exemptions from that tax?”
In a Parliamentary twist, Smith had previously been close to sending Mallard from the House during a previous question, after Mallard had repeatedly interjected while another Minister answered on another issue.
English replied by saying Mallard could “look up the Tax Act” if he wanted to see the current list.
“But what I can tell you is that the package of measures which involve bigger government spending,...”
At this point Smith rose to his feet – a sign in the House that members must resume their seat and stop speaking. However English continued: “...new taxes and more debt is bad for the economy.”
After English had resumed his seat, Smith took a stern tone with him, asking why he shouldn’t send English from the House.
“He clearly saw me on my feet, and was determined – the question asked was a fair question in fact, asking the Minister of Finance what the exemptions were from the existing capital gains tax. That is actually a fair question, and the House could perhaps expect the Minister of Finance to know that," Smith said.
“Now to then...answer it by talking about the Labour Party’s policy when I’m on my feet is actually unacceptable totally.”
Another no-no in Parliament’s myriad of rules is that, as a government minister is not responsible for the opposition’s policy, a minister cannot talk about the opposition's policy when not asked about it – in this case Mallard’s question had not.
After an indication from Labour it had no more questions for English, Smith concluded: “I’ll ask the Minister of Finance to leave the House.”
And despite the ejection, which would happen rarely, if at all, in a Parliamentarian's lifetime, English was all smiles as he walked back through the foyer of Parliament House towards the Beehive, his job done for the day, of condemning Labour's new policy.