The Richard Worth conflict of interest affair has made me ponder the extent to which MP’s personal interests influence their behaviour in public life.
For example, I’ve often wondered why only the Greens support a capital gains tax on all assets other than the family home. The current tax regime provides a strong incentive for people to invest in property, where their capital gain is not taxed; and a disincentive for people to invest in productive enterprise that actually makes things and employs people.
A capital gains tax to level the playing field and thereby move investment from property to enterprise makes so much sense. Australia has had one for years. So why don’t we?
Take a look at the Register of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament (the 2008 one, because the 2009 one hasn’t been published yet). You’ll see that most MPs have listed a pecuniary interest in property other than their family home, or a beneficial interest in a Family Trust that no doubt has much of its investment in property.
In all parties other than the Greens, the MPs make the policy. So could it be the simple matter of the chickens not shitting on their own nest eggs that prevents any party other than the Greens from advocating a capital gains tax? It certainly creates a bad look. It is the potential for that sort of look that makes the Greens insist that their members make policy and that MPs are bound by it.
Oh, and getting back to Richard Worth, I see he’s now been sprung for using his diplomatic passport for private business. I wonder how many more dodgy goings on involving him have to be revealed before John Key sacks him.