Prime Minister John Key announces there will be no capital gains tax

johnkeycapgainsPrime Minister John Key had just spent the last two hours making phone calls and preparing the final touches to his capital gains announcement.

The clock had just passed 2pm, and he was slightly late. Nothing to be worried about, though. Being late to a media engagement just gives them the impression you’re doing something.

With pen in one hand, John was hard at work on the page, his other hand buried in a box of Cadbury Roses.

Beehive staff had once bought him Whittaker’s.

“Yuck,” he’d said, tossing three blocks on the floor. “I don’t like those.”

He’d wanted to sing the “Thank you very much” song when he was given them.

“You can’t do that with Whittaker’s,” he insisted.

Key had traced a large circle on his piece of paper, which he’d turned into a smiley face. Above it a smiling sun, with sunglasses on, and below it, a little house, with a mummy and daddy, and dollar signs above it.

He carefully coloured in the nose before looking up to meet the eyes of his chief of staff, Mike Munro.

“That should do it,” he said, grinning his signature grin.

He usually got it out of his system at about this point. He couldn’t smile quite like that when he faced the press. They might know.

“Right, I’m ready,” he chirped as he made his way for the door, putting on his public face for the Beehive press pool.

As he took the stand, the cameras clicked and the room went familiarly silent.

“Good afternoon, everyone,” he began. “For the past couple of years now, we’ve talked, at length, about the possibility of a capital gains tax, we even set up a thinky group to talk about it, and they gave their, uh, thinkings.

“So, the announcement, after a lot of consultation, and you know, that sort of thing, at the end of the day, we’re not going to do it. As long as I am Prime Minister, there will be no capital gains tax, no tax on CGT, and no tax on capital, or buildings, or capital letters, or any of it.

“In 2011, 2014, and 2017, we campaigned on a capital gains tax as a major part of our election campaigns, but at the end of the day, I think most New Zealanders would agree that they like money, they want money, and they don’t want less money.

“So yeah, that’s about it.”

The announcement fell as a shock on the assembled pool of reporters, who had expected a watered down tax, but not a complete abandonment.

“Given that this has been a cornerstone of, as you said, many of your election campaigns, how embarrassing or frustrating is it to make this announcement?” asked TVNZ’s Jessica Mutch.

“Oh, look, at the end of the day, that’s an interesting question, and I’d be glad to answer it.”

Key quickly called on another reporter, Stuff’s Stacey Kirk.

“Given that this seems to be a decision based largely on polling, is it cynical for you to put the winning of an election over what’s best for New Zealand?” she asked.

“Nah,” said Key. “No, not at all.”

As the questions dragged on, Key felt somewhat off balance. Strands of his long dark hair began to drift before his vision, and he worried they were becoming slightly translucent. But he pressed on.

At the conclusion of the presser, John lingered in the doorway chatting casually with his sign language interpreter, Alan Wendt.

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the gaze of Stuff reporter Henry Cooke, who appeared to have been staring at him for some time.

John was unsettled by this. What had he seen? Was it the cheeky grin? Perhaps he’d noticed a strand of grey hair? Or was it the camp stride to the podium?

“You okay there, Henry?” he asked, stepping down into the press area to approach him.

“Yeah, fine,” said Cooke, fumbling with his notes, nervously trying to cover them. “Sorry, just busy here.” He laughed, nervously.

“You dropped your pen,” said John, bending down to pick it up and hand it back to him. “So you’re definitely okay?”

“Yeah, absolutely,” nodded Cooke, before hesitantly taking back his pen.

Key firmly gripped Cooke’s shoulder, a warm and knowing smile drifting across the Prime Minister’s youthful face. “Good.”

He turned and made his way back out the door he entered.

“Thanks Alan,” he said to Wendt as he passed him.

“Thanks Jacinda,” Alan replied.