DAIL JONES (NZ First)
: This legislation before the House was originally the Border Security Bill. The Government has now split that bill into the Customs and Excise Amendment Bill—relating to the customs and excise part—and the Immigration Amendment Bill (No 3)—relating to the small part involving immigration. It is my understanding that the changes were made because of problems the Government was having with the Greens in terms of their supporting the legislation, and finally the Government had to split the bill in that manner.
The main purpose of this legislation is set out in the Customs and Excise Amendment Bill, which New Zealand First opposes. We do support the Immigration Amendment Bill (No 3), which includes a number of machinery matters to ensure that immigration is well administered in this country. It is ironic that the Customs and Excise Amendment Bill will pick up about $20 million from the exporters of this country, or thereabouts. [Interruption] How much, then, I ask the Minister.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: $4 million. The rest is on imports and re-exports.
DAIL JONES: Well, it will pick up about $20 million from the exporters of this country and the importers of this country. All right? Allow me to finish my sentence. I was saying that it is ironic, because these two bills will cost the taxpayer about $20 million. One could almost say that the Civil Union Bill, and all the time it will take to go through Parliament, and the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill, which is going through Parliament, will be paid for by the importers and exporters of this country, who are being levied $20 million for the purposes, allegedly, of good import and export control. But is it not ironic that on this very day the provisions in these two bills—affecting about 0.3 percent of the population—will be paid for, effectively on a contra basis, by the money that is collected in taxes from importers and exporters?
The Customs and Excise Amendment Bill is just another impost on the hard workers of this country, whom the Labour Party does not like. If Labour members see a worker they believe it is their duty to tax that person. A worker is just another excuse for this Labour Party to tax.
Various people are involved in imports and exports, and we have just seen that industry hit a record month in overseas trade figures. That was mainly because agricultural commodity prices, which were depressed 16 months ago, have increased to record levels. Does the Minister of Finance deny that? The main reason they have done so well this month is that agricultural commodity prices have risen from their low of 16 months ago and are now at high levels, once more. That is why we are doing so well in this country at the moment. It is because of importers and exporters—the people working out there—who have brought New Zealand’s terms of trade back to a position better than it has ever been.
What credit do they get from this minority Labour Government? It taxes them even more. The Government sees them as a group that ought to be taxed more. That is all this minority Labour Government can think about, instead of introducing, say, export incentives and export credits to try to help people—which can all be done regardless of what is said at various international levels. Instead of doing things to encourage exporters, to give them the benefit of what they want to do—as New Zealand First would do, specifically, through our export trade incentives—this minority Labour Government, in this legislation, is taxing exporters and importers once again.
One of the first pieces of legislation I was involved with when I came back to Parliament in this session, and which was passed in September or October 2002, was a bill in which the Labour Government introduced a tax of $20 million on importers in respect of new computer machinery.
Hon Rick Barker: That’s wrong.
DAIL JONES: Is the member saying that that customs and excise legislation was not introduced by the Labour Party and by Jim Anderton in 2002? Rick Barker says that of course I am wrong. He said I was wrong when I said, for example, that people had to pay fees to use the Employment Court. Rick Barker said: “No, no, no, there are no fees in the Employment Court.” Well, I had to remind him that there are fees in respect of the Employment Court, and I remind him, once again, that customs and excise legislation was passed towards the end of 2002 and it introduced more taxes on importers. Less than 2 years have gone by, and this minority Labour Government is again putting an impost on importers and also on exporters.
The border control of our country—of any country—must be the primary responsibility of the Government, with taxation and payment for it collected in the ordinary course of events. That is one of the primary jobs of a Government—to ensure the borders of a country are well patrolled and taken care of. It is historical. It goes back donkey’s years—to the 1500s, the year 1,000, and right back to BC times. Governments have always had to make sure that their borders are patrolled, and that they collect taxes from people coming in and going out. But they did not add an extra impost on the people who had to export things and import things. That is what this Labour Government does. It puts special charges on people who are working their guts out for the benefit of this country, and the only response they get from this Labour Government is that, as usual, they will be taxed more.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister)
: I am delighted to rise and support the passing of these two bills. I will pick up on a couple of points the previous speaker made. He said absolutely rightly that border security has been a function of the Government for a long time, and he said that people used to collect taxes on the way in and way out. He might care to think about that a bit further because these days we do not collect many taxes on the way in. The average weighted tariff is two-thirds of 1 percent in New Zealand. That is why we now have to actually charge for some of those services.
In terms of border security, the biggest increase in charges on exports is because of demands made by the United States for increased security, and that is not a charge that will fall to the New Zealand Government. We might as well argue that we should pay for all the freight costs for exporters—who argue that they have to pay for the costs being imposed by the United States’ security requirements.
What is the cost of this bill? The total cost on the export sector is $8 million a year. The Government is paying $4 million. The remaining $4 million represents .0000001 percent, roughly, of the total value of our exports. The Opposition, just like every Opposition party, says that every bit of money can be found from somewhere, just like that. New Zealand First argued for a billion dollars extra on police this afternoon. Just like that! A million here, a hundred million there, a billion there—what does it matter? That is the Opposition’s response and that is why they are over there and we are over here, and we will stay here.