Politics | GST

Why was Rawiri Waititi’s bill removing GST from kai given the chop?

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi’s bill to axe GST from all food didn’t pass its first reading after all the other parties’ MPs turned it down.

Te Pāti Maōri co-leader called for all political parties to support his bill, which had been drawn from the ballot tin, calling it a “no brainer” for those serious about supporting whānau through the cost of living crisis.

“Food is a right and a necessity that shouldn’t be taxed. We know that GST hits lower-income whānau the hardest.

“I would think the removal of GST from food is one of those kaupapa. It will give some real relief to the pockets of whānau and should be one of those instances where all political parties see eye-to-eye,” Waititi said.

On Wednesday, Waititi pitched the bill to the House while also showing a petition with nearly 20,000 signatures supporting the move.

“The petition is a strong indication of the appetite in Aotearoa to remove the regressive tax from the human right that is access to kai.

“A vote against the bill, is a vote against poverty.”

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Cabinet minister Shane Jones compared the bill to a mayfly: “It is born and then it perishes and that will be the outcome of this bill.”

He acknowledged Waititi for addressing the cost of living but said people needed to look after themselves.

“Don’t make it easier. Make it more challenging for people to stand up and take responsibility for life style choices.”

He ended his speech again comparing the bill to a mayfly and saying “Haere ki te pō.”


Cabinet minister Simon Watts spoke saying National wouldn’t be supporting the bill.

“The primary reason, Madam speaker, why National will not be supporting this bill is because of the staggering fiscal cost this change will occur.

“The cost of $2.6 billion, Madam speaker, is a figure that cannot be over looked,” Watts said.


Act MP Simon Court told the House Act wouldn’t be supporting the bill calling it a “poor policy, for many reasons.”

“Constant legal battle and lobbying on what would be considered fresh food or not, as seen in other countries like the UK and Australia.”

“Once you exempt GST on a few items, what next? Dental treatment? whee chairs? There’s no longer a justification against any further campaigns to remove GST from items on the basis of necessity.”

Court called Aotearoa’s GST scheme simple and the reason for its beauty.

He said the bill was “flawed” and that supermarkets would get a 15% tax cut, which might help consumers at the checkouts.


Labour MP Barbara Edmonds was happy the bill addressed the cost of living crisis and claimed that the current coalition government hadn’t.

Edmonds said the way the government had been battling the crisis was by cutting benefits, removal of the Māori Health Authority, and removing public transport fees.

“This government that says it has a laser-light focus on the cost of living and instead decides to put $2.9 billion towards tax breaks for landlords,” Edmonds told the House.

But Labour voted against the bill because it thought there could be better ways to support whānau without the removal of GST.


Greens co-leader Chloe Swarbrick thanked Waititi for bringing in the bill but said she had to be “straight up” with her party’s vote.

“We in the Greens cannot support this legislation because unfortunately it will not do what it says on the tin.”

“The proposition we’ve had is this bill will eliminate poverty, and unfortunately, it won’t do that.”

She listed reasons such as the supermarket duopoly, a policy that would be better for the wealthy, too high a cost, and she compared it to the complexity of Australia’s food exception tax.


Only six MPs (all from Te Pāti Māori) voted for the bill, while the other 117 MP’s voted against it.