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Election 2011: Q&A with Phil Goff

As the political stone-throwing commences and squabbles over not-so-secret recordings take over the headlines in the countdown to the November 26 general election, we put the big picture questions to some of our political leaders. Today, Labour Party leader Phil Goff.

What are you going to do to move NZ from being a commodity-driven economy to a high-tech, IP and knowledge-based economy?

A key move we will make to achieve this is to bring in a tax credit for companies investing in research and development. The tax credit will be set at 12.5 percent. We will also invest significantly in upskilling our workforce to move towards a high-tech, high-wage economy. I also support Sir Paul Callaghan's approach of finding niche markets where we can be world-beaters. Rather than being the cheapest, we must be the best at what we do.

We have a serious skill shortage in this country and rather than stopping talent and investment from abroad, we should be encouraging it. How do we find shithot people from overseas and recruit them to New Zealand?

I'm in favour of firstly creating skill training opportunities for Kiwis but also welcoming talented people to our country from across the world. We may not be able to compete on income levels, but we can attract people based on our other qualities, like our pristine environment; awesome lifestyle; safe, stable and harmonious communities; good governance and the lack of corruption here. We also have industries here that are leading the way around the world, so investing in them and encouraging them to grow will attract interest from people living offshore.

In an ideal world, what would the perfect tax system be?

It would be fair in terms of treating income from whatever source the same. The rate of taxation would be as low a rate as is consistent with first class services and infrastructure and meeting equity/equal opportunity needs. It would certainly not give massive tax cuts to wealthy Kiwis while virtually ignoring middle and low income New Zealanders as has happened under National. We would also want to put a stop to tax avoidance and evasion.

Rate climate change on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 the highest!) in terms of urgency as an issue, and explain why.

I'd rate it 9. It is real and will have a devastating economic and environmental impact if not addressed in time. The longer we fail to address it, the harder it will be to solve. Our children, grandchildren and generations to come will end up paying the price if we don't tackle climate change now.