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One of the benefits of living in a small, safe country is that people can have ready access to our politicians (if that is what they desire!).  To hear their message unfiltered by the media, and to give feedback direct.

We had that in spades at the first meeting of the Super Blues in Epsom, on 11 March, at the Remuera Club on Ohinerau Street.  We’ve designed it as a monthly forum for the 60+ age group of the Epsom electorate to get together mid-morning to discuss issues of the day with a National party politician.

Simon Bridges came to town to kick it off, and more than 200 came along, from all walks of life and from the four corners of the electorate: Remuera, Mt Eden, Epsom and Parnell.

He was fresh from his morning media interviews, where the topic of the day had been Shane Jones and the Provincial Growth Fund.  A conflict of interest was declared, and yet he’d still taken part in discussions with Cabinet colleagues over the project in question.   He’d said he hadn’t been in any meetings, and then he was.  It was all very confusing, and worrying, given the $3 billion of spending for which he’s responsible.

Jones has usually been my quarry; but there’s room for everyone!

The topic on most people’s minds at the meeting was the proposed Capital Gains Tax.   One woman, who owns a small bookshop, put it well when she asked how the Government thought it was fair that she should spend her career building up her business, out of tax-paid profits, with a view eventually to selling it to provide for her retirement, only to be taxed again.

She also wondered how the many people who lived in the apartment above their shop would be dealt with – would their dwelling be exempt like the private home or not?  Sadly, we couldn’t provide any reassurance.   These are the sorts of questions many people are worried about.

Another man wondered how we were going to attract venture capital funding, which was already scarce, with more taxes.  He referenced Rocket Lab, the brain-child of Peter Beck, but largely funded out of the USA.   It would be great if New Zealand savings could propel more such businesses – but it’s less likely if savings and investment is discouraged by a 33 per cent capital gains tax.

Questions also came thick and fast about potential coalition partners for National in 2020 – time will tell, Simon said.  Our job, in the meantime, is to ensure our party is as strong as possible.

Did we spend too much time talking about the economy, one gentleman asked?  Not everything is about money.   So true, of course there’s more to life than money.   The conversation often does come back to money, Simon reminded people, because so many of the things we value – good health, quality educational opportunities for the next generation, support for those in need, and more – rely on a strong economy.

In simple terms, Simon is motivated, as am I, by a desire for our kids to see opportunities here in this country – a strong, dynamic economy with a bright future.  He didn’t want to be a leader like John Key was in 2008, standing in the cake tin stadium in Wellington, saying the equivalent of this stadium left for Australia this year. 

Our country returned that flow for a couple of years, at the end of the Key/English era.  Now the flow has returned across the Tasman.  We don’t want it to get worse.   

Hopefully everyone there had something to take away and discuss back home. 

We’ll be doing it monthly, so seniors are welcome to come along to engage, to give feedback and, if necessary, instructions.   Email me at paul.goldsmith@parliament.govt.nz if you want to attend, or call 09 524 4930.

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