Chairman's Address and Report to the 2015 AGM
When we launched the NZTU back in November 2013, I remarked, echoing Churchill, that this was not the beginning of the end, or even the end of the beginning.
It was in fact the beginning of the beginning. Now two years ago, we can see how far we have come, but we can also see how much further we have to go.
The distance we have travelled is to turn an idea, more correctly an ambition that burned hot and hard in the minds of Jordan Williams and David Farrar, into something real and tangible. The organisation exists and is active and achieving. It has full time and part time staff, volunteers and interns, members and supporters.
David and Jordan wanted an organisation that would advocate for taxpayers, the ultimate and really the only source of government revenue.
They wanted an organisation that would cry, hoi …that’s not right or not fair on those who were wasting money on their own vanity and comfort, on projects that didn’t achieve what they set out to achieve, and on the never ending claims made on the taxpayers’ wallet for ever more spending. And for taxpayers include ratepayers and others who have to pay because they have no choice.
I think we have delivered that. We have exposed stuff, drawn attention to rorts and snouts in the trough, to excessive spending, and to extravagance wherever we have found it. The $6 million plus house for our consul general in Hawaii is only the latest example. Grooming lessons for Auckland Council staff, and a hair straightener for MBIE staff ($409.25) all cost money and reflect a culture that says it’s already to be profligate with someone else’s money. That someone else in this case is the long suffering taxpayer or ratepayer, and we have had enough.
It’s not all point and shout. We have tried to develop a reasoned critique around spending. We have argued from a principled and a factual basis that the billion dollars worth of corporate welfare this government dishes out each year doesn’t produce good results, is unnecessary, plays favourites and most seriously of all, the very practice of grants and subsidies to so called emerging businesses says that bureaucrats and ministers are better at picking winners than investors and entrepreneurs in the marketplace are. That’s just nonsense.
And there is more to come. One publication now in its development stages is an alternative economic strategy. We’ve called it Plan B. It sets out what we and a bunch of very reputable economists and business leaders think the government should now do to improve our economy. It’s a ready-made agenda for reform, which we intend to use to argue for positive changes to improve growth and prosperity.
We will also be making specific points about the sale of some government assets, actually they are government liabilities for which there is no business case for the taxpayer to own, and to continue dumping money into. And we will also be giving the government some advice about how to spend the budget surplus, now that it has turned up.
Our view – unsurprisingly – is that hardworking New Zealanders ought to get most of the surplus given back to them in tax cuts. It can hardly be the case that governments know how to spend money better than ordinary people.
If there is a surplus it is because the government has taken too much from us. The answer is simple. Give it back. We will be saying why, and putting forward some ideas about how.
2016 looks bright for the Taxpayers Union. We have created Auckland’s largest political movement. The Auckland Ratepayers Alliance has over 14 thousand members, more than the Green Party and very close to the reported membership of the Labour Party across the whole country.
And those people are going to be active in trying to unseat the gang of nine, those councillors who voted for a nine percent plus increase in rates for the average Auckland household.
They are going to feel the heat, and we will be backing the ARA to defeat as many of them as possible. Auckland needs sensible government that lives within its means, not continuing extravagance that raids the ratepayers’ pocket whenever the council’s coffers run low.
Always, but always, we know that we depend on the support and generosity of our supporters and members. We are always grateful, but we are also almost always desperate as well. Donating to causes and charities is the ultimate act of discretionary spending, but without continuous support we will simply not survive and be able to do the work that so much needs to be done.
I urge you all not just to dip into your pockets once, but to sign up for an ongoing commitment, monthly, quarterly or whatever suits you best. We can then see a positive cash flow into the future, which not only gives us comfort to proceed with projects, it also tells us that we are doing the right things, the things our members want us to do. Of course if you can manage a more substantial donation once or twice year, that is even more welcome.
Many of the groups that we battle against can go to government agencies and get taxpayer funding to lobby the government for their causes. That path is closed to us, which means we rely on people like you. You have not let us down, and we want to continue to make you happy in what we do and in what we achieve.
Finally may I thank very much my fellow board members, David Farrar, and Gabrielle O’Brien and our executive director Jordan Williams and various other staff members, volunteers, contributors, all of whom have given freely of their time and talent. I applaud you along with our members and supporters for keeping the NZTU alive and well through another eventful year.
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union
20 October 2015