With 32 days until the election, the Greens are facing another crisis after the resignation of a top official

The past few weeks have been some of the toughest in Green Party history, and they continue to worsen.

Political director Joss Debreceny has resigned with just a few weeks until the election, after being appointed last year.

Meanwhile, the party’s chief of staff Deborah Morris-Travers has also stepped down from the role but will stay on in a “special projects role” providing advice on ending poverty.

Green Party digital director Tory Whanau has been made acting chief of staff for the remainder of the campaign.

Co-leader James Shaw, perhaps getting ahead of himself with a very ministerial-sounding statement, said: “As these changes are operational issues, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment”.

Tax continues to dog Labour

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has again repeated her refusal to rule out a capital gains tax in her first term, while National has taken a poke at Labour over its opposition to free trade.

The policy effects of Jacinda Ardern’s election as Labour leader are still being worked out, but the tax system is one area of clear difference.

Under former leader Andrew Little, Labour junked its 2014 pledge to introduce a capital gains tax on properties aside from the family home.

With Ardern in charge, the proposal is back on the table, pending the work done by a tax working group a Labour-led government would set up.

Speaking to media in Auckland, Ardern said Labour had already committed to extending the National government’s “bright line test” (a tax on capital gains from the sale of properties other than the family home) from two years to five.

However, she reserved the right to implement a more thorough capital gains tax, depending on the working group’s findings.

“What I want to maintain is the ability as leader to make the best possible decisions on behalf of New Zealanders to ease our housing crisis as possible. If I get advice that there’s different things that we should be doing, I want to reserve the right to act on that advice.”

Ardern would not answer questions about how wide-ranging a capital gains tax would be, saying she did not want to “pre-determine or pre-judge what [the working group] might recommend”, but confirmed there would still be an exception for the family home.

While there was a feeling among some in Labour that the capital gains tax was one reason for its loss at the 2014 election, Ardern believed people had since moved on, while National itself had introduced the bright line test.

“I think there is still an appetite to ease the pressure on people when it comes to housing affordability, I absolutely do – it’s one of the issues that is raised the most with me.”

On the wider issue of tax reform, Ardern said she was concerned about the fairness of the system. Labour would be “absolutely clear about what we intend to do” once it had time to digest Treasury’s pre-election economic and fiscal update on Wednesday.

Ardern’s comments came as the Greens reiterated their support for a comprehensive capital gains tax.

Co-leader James Shaw said the family home would be exempt, but the tax would apply to assets sold in New Zealand and would be inflation-adjusted and realisation-based.

This, along with fixing a proper price on carbon, would be issues the Greens wanted to see addressed in the first term of any new government, he said.

Labour’s new look

Ardern was in Auckland to reveal Labour’s new television advert for the election – hastily put together after the first ad, based around Little, was released in July.

The ad, focused on and narrated by Ardern, was created in just over a fortnight and filmed over a week, incorporating scenes from the party’s campaign launch in Auckland last weekend.

The full text of her voice-over is as follows: “Now’s the time to build a better, fairer future for New Zealand. They will try to convince you not to rock the boat. But we can do better: better healthcare, better schools, better transport, cleaner rivers, and homes for all. I am ready. We’re all ready. Let’s do this.”

National pushes free trade, TPP

National has announced its trade policy for the election, promising to launch or finish a suite of trade negotiations while taking a poke at Labour over its opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The announcement from Trade Minister Todd McClay, who said National would “create shiploads of jobs for Kiwis”, will not surprise anyone.

It largely reiterates the goals outlined in the Government’s Trade Agenda 2030, including the goal of having 90 per cent of the country’s goods exports covered by FTAs by that year.

McClay said the Government, if re-elected, would seek to launch FTA negotiations with the European Union, the UK post-Brexit, Sri Lanka, and the Mercosur alliance of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

It would also upgrade existing FTAs with China, Singapore and ASEAN, while completing negotiations with the Pacific Alliance, RCEP countries and the TPP11.

Notably, the stalled trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council is not on the list: the Government was hopeful of a resolution to talks, stalled since 2009, but the blockade of Qatar by neighbouring countries this year has set back progress.

The TPP, stalled after the US withdrew under President Donald Trump, has received new life with the Government last week approving a new negotiating mandate and McClay hopeful leaders will consider the deal at November’s Apec meeting in Vietnam.

However, Labour finance spokesman Grant Robertson told TVNZ’s Q+A New Zealand should negotiate a better deal to let it ban foreign buyers from purchasing existing homes – as other countries had.

“This is not about wishlists, this is just about getting New Zealand the same deal out of TPP that Australia’s got.”

NZ First leader Winston Peters is also keen for a renegotiation, telling NBR he would not support the TPP unless the controversial investor state dispute settlement mechanism – allowing foreign investors to take action against TPP countries – was removed.

McClay pushed back against the suggestion, saying: “Our opponents want to stop and re-negotiate the whole package. That would set the cause of New Zealand trade access back many years.”

The new trade deals outlined by National would increase the proportion of Kiwi good exports covered by FTAs from 53 per cent to 78 per cent, McClay said.

Parliament dissolves

The 51st Parliament has officially been dissolved in a ceremony outside Parliament House.

On a sunny but chilly Wellington day, Phillip O’Shea, the New Zealand Herald of Arms Extraordinary to The Queen, read a proclamation signed by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy declaring Parliament’s dissolution.

The proclamation, a formal requirement before the election can take place, has been marked with a ceremony at the end of each parliamentary term since 1993.

O’Shea’s proclamation was certified by three witnesses: the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the Deputy Clerk and the Clerk-Assistant.

Sam Sachdeva is Newsroom's national affairs editor, covering foreign affairs and trade, housing, and other issues of national significance.

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