TOP vs The Greens

We’ve been asked by a lot of people what is the difference between The Opportunities Party (TOP) and the Greens. While the Greens may be close to TOP on some issues, it turns out there are quite a few stark differences. We’ve found 8 main ones.

1. Housing and Tax Reform

This is probably the biggest difference between TOP and any other party (including the Greens). While Labour and National bicker about how to build more houses, TOP is the only party talking about closing the $11b loophole that we have around property and other assets. Our Fair Tax Reform will close that entire loophole, ensure all assets are paying their fair share of tax, and recycle the revenue in reduced income tax. More money will go into businesses, more houses will be built, and 80% of people will be better off. TOP is the only party with a realistic plan to end speculation and restore housing affordability.

The Greens by contrast propose a capital gain tax, which excludes the family home. While this may be more politically palatable, this has been tried overseas and has failed to reign in either speculation or house prices. Capital gains taxes are also complex and harmful to growth. The Greens also want to up the top tax rate to 40%, already one third of our wealthiest people don’t pay the top tax bracket, and it will just encourage even more people to use housing as a tax dodge.

2. Environmental Issues

We share basically the same goals with the Greens in this respect – we want clean rivers, a zero carbon/ fossil fuel free economy by 2050, and to protect our oceans. The main difference in policy here is over the how, rather than the what.

The Greens have a dogmatic opposition to using market-based mechanisms. TOP on the other hand, are interested in what works. The OECD has shown that market mechanisms are an important part of the mix if we want to improve the environment and the economy at the same time. Central to TOP’s approach is making sure that Polluters Pay for the damage they do. In other words the Greens might deliver the same environmental outcomes (it is hard to tell given the lack of detail in their policy), but it is likely to come at a bigger cost in terms of economic output. As for climate change, based on their current policy of a $25 carbon tax, which is way below what is going to be required to achieve any meaningful emissions targets, the Greens have little chance of achieving their goal of a zero carbon economy.

3. Working with National

The Greens are committed to working with Labour to #changethegovt. TOP just wants policy change regardless of tribal politics. And the Greens are not prepared to work with National, which means that by voting for them, the environment is only represented in government half the time (or less).  We don’t think that the environment should be considered by government half the time – hence the need for a centrist environmental party that is prepared to work with either National or Labour.

As we have mentioned before the most worrying party from an environmental and progressive policy perspective at this election is not National, it is NZ First. At the moment either prospective government looks to be relying on Winston’s support to govern. So far his plan to return us to the 1970s includes removing all policies that would improve water quality and climate, consigning our native birds to extinction and getting rid of the Youth Justice system. Let’s be clear, for progressive voters, the major issue this election isn’t #ChangeTheGovt it is #AnyoneButWinston. Right now the polls suggest the Greens are relying on working with Winston, which would be a total own goal.

4. Child Poverty & Super

TOP and the Greens both want to tackle child poverty. We are both committed to removing the work test for the In Work Tax Credit so that all low-income families receive that $72 per week.

We also both want to help new Mums, recognising that poverty is highest amongst families with young kids. However, the difference is in the scale of that help. The Greens are offering to ensure all newborns receive at least $200 per week for 10 weeks. TOP wants all families to thrive with children under 3 years of age to get $200 per week for that entire period, no questions asked. This is part of our commitment to rolling out an Unconditional Basic Income. For 3&4 year olds we want to see free, full time, high quality early childhood education because that is the best education investment we can make.

What explains the difference in spending here? TOP is proposing means testing half of superannuation for the richest half of superannuitants to fund this. Not only will that make super affordable, it frees up $3b from people that don’t need the money, to invest in our young folk that do. Like the other Establishment parties, the Greens have insufficient courage to tackle the injustice of NZ Superannuation. That is what happens when you become a mainstream party.

5. Welfare

Again, both TOP and the Greens want to end poverty, but have taken quite different approaches. The Greens have proposed large increases in benefits, but have stuck with the existing system of trying to target who needs help and who doesn’t. The good news is that under the Greens plan, everyone on a benefit will get more money. The bad news is that at some stage you have to take the benefit off people, which creates a disincentive to work.

TOP on the other hand is moving towards our long-term vision of an Unconditional Basic Income (UBI). We have already started with over 65s and young families (as above), but we are also proposing rolling it out to everyone aged 18-23. The advantage of the UBI is that everyone gets it, so nobody falls through the cracks, regardless of what they are doing to pursue their goals, or contribute to society. People have the flexibility to try new things, like starting a business, volunteering, or caring without the concern of losing their benefit. A UBI rewards work because people don’t lose their benefit by working. In our view this is the welfare system of the future.

6. Incomes

The Greens want to ramp up the minimum wage as a way to boost incomes. TOP wants to increase the minimum wage too, but we recognise that it is 67% of the median wage and if you push it too far too fast you’ll just cause unemployment. The Treasury estimate is that the Green’s policy will put 30,000 people out of a job.

TOP wants higher wages too, recognizing that the approach to immigration of lowly skilled people has been a major dampener on the wages of New Zealanders. We will return immigration to its traditional role – skilled workers that simply are not available in New Zealand. Otherwise, we will reduce immigration for those of lower skills who compete with Kiwi workers, pushing down wages for all.

TOP’s tax reform will also see affordable housing (which is the real cause of poverty at the moment) and more investment going into businesses so they can provide better paid jobs.

7. Legalising Cannabis

Both parties want to fully legalise cannabis eventually, although the Greens haven’t set out how. TOP has prepared our plan for a fully legal, regulated market. Evidence shows that we can reduce the overall harm caused by cannabis and use the revenue gained from the sale of cannabis to invest in currently underfunded drug treatment programs.

In the short term the Greens have concentrated on legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes. This is popular with the public, but causes some real problems in practice. While there is growing evidence of the medicinal benefits of cannabis, when it has been legalised for medicinal purposes overseas it has spawned a whole industry of doctors willing to service people with the drug (sometimes not for purely medicinal purposes). While we appreciate the direction the Greens want to go in, TOP’s view is the best response is still to legalise fully. If we do head down this path then we need to listen closely to doctors to ensure they aren’t being turned into drug dealers.

8. Odds & Sods – other policy areas

There are plenty of other policy differences, but it isn’t always clear what the Greens policy is, so it can be difficult to tell. On things like Health and Education the Greens generally take Labour’s approach of spending more money. TOP recognises that we are a small party and so we propose policies that are self-funding and focused on making the system work better. For example in health, we are focused on prevention, and for education we are focused on reducing pointless testing and administration.

Both parties are committed to honouring the Treaty, but only TOP want to embed it in a written Constitution, with protection from a Constitutional Authority (such as an Upper House).

Your choice!