Thursday, November 27, 2008

Political Rant

So, the UK has decided to impose a new tax on airline travel, with the furthest destinations attracting the highest taxes ie South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

At first, I thought that this meant that if we manage to return to the UK (which I would dearly love to do, to see all the places associated with my ancestors that I didn't manage to fit in the first time around), that we would pay a hefty departure tax for leaving Britain. After mulling over all the news reports, I realised that the UK actually plan to tax airline tickets bought there, so that those buying a return fare from New Zealand to the UK and back won't pay the tax. (At least, that's what I thought. At least one newspaper article I looked at suggests otherwise. Maybe if I return I'll fly to Paris and travel from there by train).

Why does this still bother me? First, I think it is a revenue-gathering exercise. There is no sign that the government actually plans to use the money to put into measures to combat environmental problems - unlike airlines and tour companies that give travellers the option to buy carbon offsets, which are invested in environmentally helpful projects.

Secondly, I don't think it is entirely Britain's problem. Travellers from Britain don't fly to Australia or New Zealand. They fly to Singapore, or Dubai, or Hong Kong, or Los Angeles, and from there, after a short or longer stopover, they continue. So - what happens if these countries also decide to tax air travel, and they do it by slapping on an airport departure tax? Double taxation is what happens.

Thirdly, it affects our economy in a rather large way. Tourism is a big earner here. Many of our young people spend a couple of years living and working in the UK, and will be hit when they buy a ticket to come back. There will be other effects.

None of these are the real reason for my upset . Emotionally, it bothers me for several more reasons.

Firstly, because I feel as if I have done the responsible thing - worked, saved, bought the house, raised the family, looked forward to travelling when they were grown, and suddenly I am being told that it is a Bad Thing to enjoy the pleasure of travel. Every tax on air travel is another government trying to make me feel guilty. (I'm pretty good at the guilt thing all by myself).

Secondly, because in New Zealand we feel small and isolated. It feels as if we are being told "none of the popular kids want to play with you any more, because you are too far away." Or "our mummy says we are not allowed to play with you any more."

And thirdly, because after all, we are here because Britain put us here. Not all New Zealanders of course, but a large proportion of New Zealanders, and Australians, are here because of British colonisation. We have strong emotional ties to Britain. Though I don't think they really remember that, any more - not as much as we do, anyway.

Here's a link to a piece in the Melbourne Age
and a New Zealand reaction

(I wonder if they would help the environment more by taxing the short haul flights the most. After all, these are the ones where the tax might actually encourage people to take land-based options such as rail. For New Zealand and Australia, there are no options.)


Unknown said...

The airlines will continue to invest in technology and upgrades, develop alternative jet fuels and push for modernization of the air traffic control system. If continued environmental progress really is what the U.K. seeks, it should work to advance more positive initiatives, rather than adopting policies that hamper the airlines ability to continue a cycle of environmentally-friendly investment.
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Catherine said...

You may be right, but why do I feel as if I have just been spammed? Probably because I have - I won't be clicking your link.

Anonymous said...

I do think short haul flights really should be banned in the UK and Europe. Really transcontinental rail travel is very good. And even in the US my train trip from LA to SF was a pleasure.