Interview with Brian Hayes in the Mail… September 22, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
…conducted by Jason O’Toole, and very interesting it is too.
Note how difficult it is to drag from our junior finance minister an admission he was wrong about Enda Kenny when he was part of the heave against his leader…
The father-of-three laughs good- humouredly when I suggest that he could have been in the Cabinet today if he hadn’t dared challenge Mr Kenny. ‘My crime against humanity!’ he quips. Does he accept that he was wrong to question Mr Kenny’s leadership? ‘It’s not a question of being wrong or right. I took a decision that I thought was in the best interest of the party and the country at the time. In a funny way, the Taoiseach’s star has risen substantially since that because he managed to win the day. Since then, the public has a different view of him, I think. ‘One thing people underestimate about Enda Kenny is his experience — on the pitch and off the pitch. A lot of people’s views have changed on him.’ So, he essentially proved you wrong? ‘I suppose he has. But I don’t think there’s any pettiness on his part or personality. He could’ve banished myself and others in the selection of his government and he didn’t do that.
Well, what of others?
He says he is certainly ‘open to further cuts’ to his Dáil salary, but admits that he finds it ‘difficult’ to look across the chamber to see tax cheat Mick Wallace in situ. ‘It’s a bit difficult listening to his pronouncements on what we should and shouldn’t do. It highlights how out-of-date the rules of the Dáil are — that no action can be taken. ‘Having a clean tax record is very important. It’s very important that the Revenue move on people — be they big or small, whether in the Dáil or out of the Dáil.’
Interesting. And what of the economy.
Rather astonishingly, given the reaction to his previous comments, Mr Hayes is happy to reveal that the Government is not ruling out the possibly of including a tax on land within the controversial property tax. ‘A full decision hasn’t been taken on that,’ he says. ‘I mean, property is property — whether it’s land or houses. The Government hasn’t come to set a view on it yet, but when we do people will hear about it.’ I suggest to him that there are those who would argue that the property tax is a double taxation for those who paid stamp duty, particularly during the Celtic Tiger property boom. ‘I know — we’re looking at that to see could a system be established where some compensation might be given to people who had to buy at the top of the market,’ he says.
And what of his thoughts on pensioners?:
‘I wasn’t picking on pensioners,’ Mr Hayes states firmly. ‘But, of course, it suits the agenda of some people to think that. ‘I was making the point for well-off pensioners, but the same applies to all of these benefits, which need to be on the table to be analysed by all of the departments. What I was saying applies to all higher income groups — whether they’re pensioners, young people or middle-aged people. ‘Everything must be on the table when we’re trying to get through this crisis. Obviously those who have most should pay more. Those with the biggest shoulders should shoulder that burden.’ Joan Burton has already criticised him over these comments — and she may find fresh ground for criticism when she is informed of Mr Hayes’ thoughts on implementing cuts to social support payments. ‘The real problem on the social welfare side was that 250,000 extra people since 2008 are on the Live Register,’ he says. ‘And that is taking such a huge amount of additional money on the social protection side. We have to look at all of these adjustments in the context of the forthcoming Budget, but I’m confident we can get through it.
If I were working out my redundancy today – and God knows I’m on contract so that day will come sooner or later – and depending upon social welfare in a matter of weeks I’d be quite concerned about the above.
But a revealing insight perhaps into what those in the government anticipate may be their reward…
I’m confident that the public see the big prize — and the big prize is firstly stabilising the economy, which we’ve done. ‘Secondly, growing the economy — I think we will have much better news on that next year. And, thirdly, getting people back to work. If we achieve that people will stay with us.’
Though O’Toole asks an excellent question…
But with one in five mortgages now in default according to the latest figures, how does the Government expect people to be able to afford a property tax?
Particularly given his aversion to income tax increases (see later) what is his response?
‘My understanding is that people can also pay on a monthly basis. We have to work on a system that helps people to pay according to how they can pay.’
Now, perhaps it is me, but how is inability to pay ameliorated by paying on a monthly basis? And what of the contradiction in the following?
Mr Hayes is adamant that if a property tax is not widely introduced, income tax would need to be hiked up significantly. Although his party declared in its election manifesto that it is against doing so, isn’t it possible that income tax could be increased despite the presence of a property charge? ‘Well, it may happen,’ he concedes. ‘But what I’m saying is that our mission is for that not to happen. You have to broaden the tax bases, not put more and more pressure on working people.’
But logically aren’t ‘working people’ going to have to pay in both instances whether the tax is through income tax or property tax .By the way, I’m all for a tax on all property and not just houses but in the absence of same I’d sooner go for income tax rises, not least because they’re more progressive (in the technical and other sense).
And that progressivity? Well…
I ask him whether there will be exceptions made for the likes of the elderly who live in valuable properties but have little income or those who inherited properties which they could never have purchased? ‘I don’t know what will happen. I think we’ve got to get this right and yes there are significant challenges.’ He adds: ‘There will always be anomalies. I’m confident that it will be a fair tax, that’s seen to be fair. I’m confident we can get that right between now and Budget Day.’
One would not be filled with confidence over his ‘anomalies’ remark.
But it rather makes a mockery of his point that:
Earlier this week, when asked by the Irish Daily Mail to comment on recent speculation, Minister Burton refused to rule out a rise in PRSI contributions. ‘As I said, everything is on the table,’ says Mr Hayes. ‘I’m not going to second guess what the discussion at Cabinet is going to be.’
Everything? Not quite.