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Inciting violence, but @peace with taxpayers’ money

Music has always been a tool of free expression. Particularly from the 1960s onwards, artists began politicising their messages through music, voicing their opinions about war, famine and other hardships. The Beatles, Bob Geldof, The Exploited and Pussy Riot music has not just been a tool of expression, but a call to action.

Yesterday saw the release of a track by New Zealand hip-hop act @peace, grimly titled “Kill the PM”.

Fairfax reports:

An Auckland hip-hop crew slammed for releasing a song with lyrics that apparently include a threat to kill Prime Minister John Key are urging young people to enrol to vote.

Kill The PM, by @peace, depicts a golfing, luxury car-driving Key, and says he should die - "ain't doin' nothin' so I'm gonna kill the prime minister".

It continues: "I been tryin' to get a job but they got none/so I instead I got a sawnoff shotgun/and 'pop'."”

It soon came to our attention that @peace had been in receipt of taxpayer-funded grants from NZ On Air for previous tracks.

According to the NZ On Air website, the group has received $32,000 since late 2011. $6,000 of which was received to make a music video for one of their songs last month.

So far NZ On Air has refused to denounce @peace for their hateful track, nor have they pledged to refuse the group taxpayer-funded grants in the future.

We have written to NZ On Air to outline our concerns and request assurance from the Chief Executive that no further taxpayer-funded grants will be made to any group espousing hate-speech.

2014 08 26 Ltr Jhw Nz on Air

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August 13, 2014

Bribe-o-meter ›

Taxpayers' Union launch 2014 Bribe-o-meter

This morning we launched our 2014 election costing project to calculate the total cost of promises politicians make in the lead up to the 2014 General Election. The “Bribe-o-meter” allows Kiwis to judge for themselves the political bribes as parties vie for votes.

The Bribe-o-meter will hold the politicians and political parties to account for how much their pork barrel bribes will cost New Zealand households. For too long politicians have got away with plucking numbers out of thin air when announcing policy.

The Bribe-o-meter is about transparency. We will be updating the figures weekly, allowing potential voters to assess which political parties are offering taxpayers value for money.

As of Monday, National's promises add up to $2,770 per household. For Labour it's $4,082.

We've engaged Dr Michael Dunn to undertake the economic research for the project. Dr Dunn will provide the Taxpayers' Union independent figures and analysis. Dr Dunn is a former Principal Economist at the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research and led the team of financial analysts at the Inland Revenue Department that forecast government tax revenues, and costed social policy through thirty Budget, Half Year and pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Updates. While at IRD, Mr Dunn served under numerous ministers and treasurers under National and Labour lead governments.

In the coming weeks we will be updating the Bribe-o-meter tables, asking Dr Dunn to provide an expert review of parties' cost estimates and adding the costs of further announced policies. We'll also be adding the estimated costs of policies proposed by the minor parties.”

Click here to view the Bribe-o-meter.

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Porky presents troughing award to CEO of Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs

Introducing Porky, our new mascot and aspiring list MP!

Porky loves identifying troughing MPs and bureaucrats. The crème de la crème, he surprises with an awards ceremony. After all, when you’ve turned troughing on the taxpayer into an art, it would be rude to get no recognition!

This morning Porky issues his first award having read the Dominion Post's coverage of Pauline Winter, the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and her $30,000 expense bill , including weekend trips for her and an assistant to fly to Auckland most weekends.

Taxpayers are stumping up for Pacific Island Affairs boss Pauline Winter to travel between Wellington and Auckland most weekends.

Winter has a home in Westmere, but her $240,000-a-year job is based in the capital.

Her expense records show that over the last year she flew between the two cities almost every weekend. Between July 2013 and 2014, her expenditure totalled more than $30,000, most of which went on airfares, taxis and rental car hire in Wellington and Auckland.

Taxpayers fork out $270,000 per year for this Chief Executive and she is refusing to take calls from the media. The Taxpayers' Union called on Ms Winter to front up, or resign.

This afternoon Porky visited the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, hoping to present Ms Winter with a “Troughing Award” to acknowledge her endeavours with taxpayers’ money.

 Unfortunately Ms Winter's didn’t front. Porky was devastated. Executive Director Jordan Williams recounts:

"For Ms Winter's gallant efforts to rip off New Zealand taxpayers with publicly funded weekend trips to the exotic capital of the South Pacific known as Auckland, Porky and I visited the Ministry’s offices to present her with the first of our 'Troughing Awards’."

“Ms Winters was in the office but refused to front-up or speak to media."

"Despite Ms Winter's expenses being more than $30,000 she chose to hide in her office and send a spin doctor to accept the award on her behalf."

“Ms Winter's refusal to justify her expense bill is the epitome of arrogance. She should front up, justify her extravagance on the taxpayer purse, or resign.”

Porky’s quest will continue - in fact you can expect to see him out and about where ever wasteful bureaucrats, politicians and taxpayer funded groups are wasting hard earned tax dollars.

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Fair Tax for Savers

This afternoon in partnership with Age Concern, Consumer NZ and the Financial Services Council, we launched the 'Fair Tax for Savers' campaign in Wellington.


Campaign supporters

What is the Fair Tax for Savers Campaign asking for?

We're calling on politicians to remove the over-taxation of long term savings, specifically:

  • the effective tax rate paid on KiwiSaver funds to be the same as the marginal income tax rates KiwiSavers would pay on their other income; and 

  • term deposits to be taxed only on the real interest rate (actual interest rate less the rate of inflation) rather than the nominal interest rate (the actual interest you receive) as the compensation for inflation is not really economic income. 

The campaign involves inserting more than 120,000 post cards in print media for readers to complete and send to MPs. The first insertions were made this morning.

Support the campaign

Please take a few moments to visit and email a postcard to your local MP asking for fairer taxes on savings.

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Getting around without a car

The Taxpayers’ Union is questioning the merits and costs of the “No car? No problem! Getting around your community without a car” brochure, released by the Office for Senior Citizens. The brochure’s purpose is to explain to senior citizens transport options when they can no longer drive.

The primary purpose of the taxpayer funded brochure is to make suggestions such as:

  • “walking more often”
  • getting lifts from family and friends”
  • “using taxies”
  • “using public transport"
  • “letting others use your car to drive you places”
  • "public transport and getting family to drive you"

It has cost taxpayers over $37,000 to produce the brochures since 2005 (excluding the cost of staff time).

Instead of addressing pressing issues such as fraudsters preying on our seniors and elder-abuse, the Government is throwing money away at brochures that parrot what is surely common sense. When the brochure launched, the Minister for Senior Citizens even put out a press release to welcome it!

We think that publishing a brochure explaining that people can walk places is a waste of taxpayers’ money and public servants’ time. Take a read and tell us what you think via our Facebook page.

We know that politicians like to be seen to be doing something, but surely New Zealanders don’t need to be told by the Government that taking a bus is an option, when you can no longer drive.

No Car No Problem

To view the responses to our information requests lodged with the Minister and Office for Senior citizens, click "continue reading".

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When someone else is paying, why walk?

A few months ago a Ministry of Health official contacted us regarding the use of taxi charge cards within the Ministry, and suggested we look at the number of 'micro-trips' taken by managers, often between the Ministry's Wellington offices and Parliament.

Details of the Ministry's taxi charges show its Wellington staff are making more than 1,000 taxi trips a year costing less than $10.

In the 2012/2013 financial year, Ministry staff based in Wellington charged taxpayers for 8,645 taxi trips with 1,076 of those for journeys costing less than $10.

It is sadly ironic that while the Ministry of Health spends taxpayer money to promote active living, officials are getting taxis a few hundred metres down the road. 

A taxi trip for the sake of a five minute walk is simply not justifiable when it’s someone else's money. The documents show that these short trips make up more than ten percent of all taxi charges by Wellington based staff.

Taxpayers will not be impressed that Wellington health bureaucrats are the in habit of getting them to pay for micro-trips when it is probably faster to walk.

Click 'continue reading' to view the document.

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Letter to the Speaker

News broke on Wednesday that Mana Party leader Hone Harawira had erected hoardings for the election which displayed the crest of the House of Representatives. This led to questions about how the hoardings had ben funded – had taxpayers’ money been used?

When we questioned if taxpayers’ money had ben used by the MP, Mr Harawira aggressively claimed that funding for the hoardings had not come from Parliamentary Service.

So why do they all contain the crest? It’s a symbol that generally denotes that taxpayers’ money has been used to purchase advertising or other goods and services. 

We have written to the Speaker in order to gain some clarification on this matter.

The rules applicable to fundings MPs receive are clear:

  1. taxpayers’ money should not be used for, or in a way that could be seen to promote a candidate or party during the election; and
  2. the House of Representatives crest should not be used on materials that contain electioneering.

Which rule has been broken? And what repercussions, if any, are likely to follow?

We’re looking forward to the Speaker’s ruling and response.

24/07/2014 Letter to the Speaker

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