Post-Cab Presser: Foreign buyers register, TPP and Serco

Published: Mon 27 Jul 2015 05:50 PM
Post-Cabinet Press Conference on foreign buyers register, TPP and Serco.
At a press conference today in Wellington, John Key discussed the foreign buyers register as well as the TPP and Serco.
Key was questioned on whether a stamp tax might be used as a tool to deal with foreign buyers.
“That would depend on the country involved and the fair trade agreements (FTA) we have in place there, or a double tax agreement.”
“It is a tool we have available in some cases, but not in all.”
He said more information would need to be collected as to how information in a foreign buyers register would be sampled before looking at options such as a stamp duty.
“Dealing with non-resident taxpayers is different from dealing with actual residents,” Key said.
Key also said he was not opposed to the foreign buyers register, but noted that different people's definitions of a what a register should contain would vary.
“If it is truly a register, you would have to record when it was on-sold.”
Key said he would not support a ban on foreign buyers.
“It is not justified nor terribly effective."
If New Zealand really wanted to stop non-tax residents buying property, Key said a far more effective way of implementing this would be to put an ongoing tax into action.
“Bans are very inefficient things. Taxes are easier to apply and they’re actually a bit more coherent.”
Key said he expected the data from a register would show that the majority of “foreign buyers” would have some kind of connection to New Zealand.
The effect of signing the Korean FTA stopped the ban on Chinese buyers, he said.
“Technically, if the Korean FTA wasn’t there, then it’s also possible that the TPP would influence that.”
Key said the New Zealand public should be able to reasonably expect the government to want the country to compete and succeed in the world's biggest economies.
Furthering this point, he said Labour’s position on the TPP and free trade had changed over the years.
Labour recently said that joining the TPP would mean signing away New Zealand’s sovereignty.
“If they felt so strongly about that, why on earth did they write the MFN (Most Favoured Nation) provisions into the 2008 China FTA?
“Up until they had massive divisions within their own caucus, they were totally supportive of the TPP.
“House prices doubled under Labour in the nine years Helen Clark was prime minister. “
Key said early in the press conference that New Zealand’s key focus for Auckland housing needed to be on supply.
When asked if the city would be able to keep up with the increasing demand, Key said: “I’m actually optimistic that over time we’ll get there.”
Key briefly discussed climate change, and conceded that it “could be” a threat to regional security.
“I think we have to take it seriously, but it’s a question of making sure everybody does their bit.”
Key suggested that climate issues such as the significant global rise in sea levels might be resolved by “adaptation and mitigation”.
On the subject of Serco and the potential consequences for the company, Key speculated on the extent of the alleged activity.
“I think there’s been plenty of allegations about what’s going on at Mt Eden, and some evidence.”
When asked if Serco deserved to receive a $1.2 million bonus in 2015 (as it did in 2014), Key said it all came down to whether or not they have fulfilled their contract.
“The government can’t not make payments on contracts if they’re legally due and if they’ve been legally fulfilled.”
Key said it was unlikely the government would advance the third-party report, a proposal looking to overhaul DHB governance and give more control to the ministry.
The report was part of a wider report requested by Health Minister Jonathon Coleman.
Key said, “It’s not breaking news that there’s financial challenges for the health system.”
There were new procedures and practices being introduced that New Zealanders would want and should have access to, he said. Those developments cost money, he added.
“There’s always pressure on the health system.”
Click a link to play audio (or right-click to download) in either
MP3 format or in OGG format.
Video Of Today's Press Conference in Four Parts
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

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