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English 'dug his finger into my chest' says sloppy-speaking Wade

Rob Hosking
Tue, 16 Jul 2013

Visiting academic Robert Wade is feeling bruised.

A combination of abusive emails and what he says is a physical altercation with Finance Minister Bill English has left him feeling less than welcome.

Professor Wade says the finance minister intimidated him in a backstage exchange during Television New Zealand’s Q & A programme on the weekend.

The exchange blew up over Professor Wade’s claim New Zealand economic and social policy is made by the most wealthy one per cent of the population – a claim he now says he did not mean to make.

“In the course of the interview I said, while he was waiting outside for his interview, I summarised the point I was making about the US and UK that increasing economic policy is made by the top one per cent for the top one per cent.

“He apparently exploded out of the ante room like a volcano and said 'that is an outrageous thing to say in the New Zealand context' – which I had not said.

“When he came into the studio, and I was going out, he sort of dug his finger into my chest and said in a very menacing voice 'economic policy in New Zealand is not made by the top one percent for the top one percent - don’t you say that again.’”

Mr English says there was no physical altercation with Professor Wade although there was a verbal exchange.

“There was no physical contact – it he meant finger point that may have happened but there was no prodding,” Mr English’s press secretary Craig Howie told NBR ONLINE.

In fact Professor Wade’s comments clearly link New Zealand to his wider claims about the top one percent around the world, and stemmed from a comment about the absence of a capital gains tax in New Zealand

“I mean, it is I think quite outrageous that in New Zealand there's no capital gains tax,” he said in the interview.

“That’s a really major area that more political attention should be given to. But of course if you have a situation where economic policy is being made by the top 1% for the top 1%, then the last thing you're going to get is political movement towards a capital gains tax.”

Pressed by NBR ONLINE about this, he now says he did not mean to include New Zealand in this, and that New Zealand in fact has a relatively good picture on inequality.

“That was sloppy speaking on my part: certainly New Zealand in equality has gone up a great deal – it is in fact in the upper quarter of the OECD according to some measures.”

Professor Wade also told NBR ONLINE any capital gains tax should be used to lower personal income tax rates – rather than, as proposed by the Labour and Green parties, increase them.

But he also says he does not know much about New Zealand’s tax system, and was not aware of the range of specific capital gains taxes which apply to financial sector investments.

Nor was he aware regular property investors have the capital gain on their properties included in their income, and taxed as part of their income tax.

Rob Hosking
Tue, 16 Jul 2013
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English 'dug his finger into my chest' says sloppy-speaking Wade