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Leaked: MP Election Diaries

Diary

Your stupendous yet humble New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has obtained copies of Members of Parliament’s election diaries. We requested them under the Official Information Act from new MPs, who apparently do not know that the OIA does not apply to them. Stuart Smith answered because he was desperate to talk to someone… even us apparently.

Hon David Seymour was not asked for his diaries but sent them to us irregardless. We got two emails, a signed bound hard copy of his diary, 14 autographed copies of his book “Own your Future: A David Seymour Story”, 4 signed glossy photographs, and a pallet of bumper stickers promoting his new website www.thesecretdiariesofdavidseymouraged37andahalf.com.

Anna Lorck, Labour List MP

9:41
Arrive at first caucus meeting early. Only a few people here – they also look new and nervous.

9:42
We exchange socially distanced nods.

10:10
A polite gentleman called Matt Doocey informs me that this is the National Party Caucus Room.

10:11
On the walk of shame down the wrong corridor, I overhear a staff member saying they had to use Google Images to figure out who I actually was.

10:30
Arrive at Labour Caucus Room. Told curtly I am late and that I should put the coffee and muffins on the corner table.

Maureen Pugh, National List MP (correct at time of writing)

Election Day:
I’m in!

Election Night:
I’m out (again…)

Specials:
I’m in (again)!

Note to self:
Send cards to Matt King and Denise Lee who have lost their seats. Do not use any smiley emojis. Organise party. Bound to have some invites, banners, and plastic cups from the last two elections (never used).

Chris Luxon, National MP for Botany

7:01
First act as a new MP is to lodge an indignant complaint to the Electoral Commission that I was not directly elected to Prime Minister. Sir John Key definitely implied it was inevitable.

8:01
Quick reply from Electoral Commission saying that being elected to Prime Minister is constitutionally and historically impossible, particularly from Opposition.

8:05
Archive my “What I will achieve in the first 100 days as your Prime Minister” document. What a shame. I had just finished colouring it in.

8:10
Begin revising my three-year plan starting with “write a stern letter to Sir John”, “get a much bigger office”, and “find out what my portfolios are… better not be Statistics.”

Chloe Swarbrick, Green MP for Auckland Central

Election Night  

9:00pm
I’m running to boost the Green vote.

10:00pm
I’m running to boost the Green vote.

Next Day             

1:00am
Oh my god (if she exists which she doesn’t), I’m an electorate MP! Just as I always planned.

9:00am
I have 1,274 emails and 47 phone messages from locals wanting me to do stuff for them – for nothing! Seriously, this must be why Green MPs never want to win an electorate.

12:15pm
Marama Davidson (who is not an electorate MP I should note) sends me a GIF of a laughing cat next to her Ministerial warrant. I have the electorate seat, but she has the seat in the Ministerial limousine (which is not electric I should note).

David Seymour, Act MP for Epsom, Act Party Leader     

Election Night

7:00pm
Mwhahahahahaha!

8:00pm
Mwhahahahahaha!

8:30pm
Fly my pretties! Victory is mine! All your base are belong to us!

8:35pm
Try to look sober on TV.

8:35:30pm
Fail.

8:36pm
Act vote goes up.

10:15pm
Strut a little.

10:17pm
Sit down for a while.

Next day

7:00am
Try to get up. Ouch.

10:00am
Get up – slowly.

10:05am
Wonder who are all these strange people sleeping in my opulent red velvet lounge room? Turns out they are my caucus.

10:10am
Try to learn their names before they wake up. Fortunately, most of them are deep sleepers and had driver’s licences with all the relevant information. Make notes.

10:30am
Ring the Parliamentary Library and request a book about managing a team. Obviously, I have never needed one before. I am in luck – Todd Muller had just returned one.

Stuart Smith, National MP for Kaikoura

9:45am
Head to Caucus in a tremendously good mood.

9:46am
Mood dented by Parliamentary Security saying that tours were not allowed in this area. This is my third term as an MP. They apologise.

9:48am
Stopped by different Parliamentary Security while heading to the bathroom. Point to the Guide to Parliament 2020-2023 poster which clearly has my photo on it. Glad I carry it around.

9:50am
Bathroom.

10:00am
Caucus meeting. On balance, I should have let security escort me from the Parliamentary precinct.

Taxpayer Update: More money printing | Ping pong for COVID | Poor form from Stats NZ

Dear Supporter,

We need tax relief, not desperate money printing

Adrian Orr

The Reserve Bank Governor’s announcement of a new $28 billion 'Funding for Lending' money printing programme is a desperate measure. Clearly, monetary policy tools have become ineffective at fueling economic recovery.

In fact, Adrian Orr’s loose monetary policy may do more harm than good as New Zealanders pump all this extra cash into an already-unaffordable housing market.

It is becoming increasingly clear that it’s fiscal policy – especially the wage subsidy – that has propped up New Zealand's economy in the wake of COVID-19. But the wage subsidy has now run its course and we need new options.

The Green Party and special interest groups are clamoring for higher benefits, but that was sensibly ruled out by the Prime Minister on Monday. Other groups are calling for 'helicopter money'. We say, instead, look to tax relief as a way of bolstering real incomes and encouraging productivity.

A temporary reduction in GST would encourage New Zealanders to bring forward future spending, bolstering business revenues, employment, and economic growth. It's been done before, successfully. In the United Kingdom, a temporary cut to VAT saw households bring consumption spending forward, mimicking the traditional role of looser monetary policy (i.e. lower interest rates). A cut to GST certainly beats printing money and stoking the housing market!

New Zealanders would actually have to spend their money on goods and services (not houses!) to reap the benefits of a GST cut.

Grant Robertson fights COVID-19 with table tennis

Ping pong

First it was horse racetracks. Then it was arts grants for "indigenised hypno-soundscapes". Now the Government’s taxpayer-funded pandemic response includes table tennis, badminton, downhill luge, and Sea Scouts.

Grant Robertson is doling out $15 million to over 2,000 sporting organisations as part of his "Community Resilience Fund".

The funding was recently increased "due to the demand for the fund in the initial three weeks". Well, of course. There will always be demand for "free" money!

To the extent that these organisations contribute to the economy, they'll have been eligible for the wage subsidy. Why is the sports sector getting extra special treatment?

CCDHB appointment process creates conflict of interest

Spending at our DHBs needs far more scrutiny especially when it comes to conflicts of interest and "jobs for the boys".

As RNZ reports, we're raising the alarm about such a case at Wellington's Capital & Coast DHB, as it selects a new Director of Pacific Health.

The DHB’s selection panel includes Tino Pereira, who chairs the Central Pacific Collective – a group that last year received a $1.35m contract from the previous Director of Pacific Health.

In other words, this man will have a say on hiring the person who will be responsible for evaluating his service delivery and potentially renewing his million-dollar contract.

Our full letter to the DHB outlining the concerns can be read here.

Stats NZ wades into the American election

The day before the US election, our Government's statistics agency produced this graphic for social media:

Stats NZ post

The post reads: "We thought we would squeeze in some data before the result. NZ imported 4.8 million kgs of fresh oranges from the USA in the year ended September 2020."

The image is clearly meant to be a p*sstake of Donald Trump.

As Newshub reports, we challenged Stats NZ for using the election of a close diplomatic ally as social media fodder:

If a government department wants to use humour on social media that’s fine, but they should steer clear of the culture wars and pandering to what they think is politically fashionable.

Stats NZ defended the post in the Newshub piece, but has since deleted it. Perhaps the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a stern word with them!

A letter from Snoopy

Snoopy

Have a great weekend,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

PS. The election may be over, but the Debt Monster still stalks our politicians. This week he welcomed newly-sworn-in Ministers to Parliament as the official Government debt clock ticked over one hundred thousand million dollars.

 

Revealed: Taxpayers cover animal welfare fines for Landcorp farmers

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is today calling on Landcorp to stop reimbursing farmers fined for animal welfare offences.

The Taxpayers’ Union requested correspondence pertaining to staff reimbursements of fines paid by Landcorp over the last three years. Landcorp provided information revealing the following:

• A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for transporting a cow that birthed a calf en route to slaughter on a moving truck.

• A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for transporting an angus bull which was tender on its forelimbs and sore in all four feet.

• Two $500 reimbursements for animal welfare fines for transporting a calf for slaughter which had contracted tendons in both forelimbs.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke says “A fine is imposed as punishment for breaking the law and should be duly paid by the infringing individual rather than law-abiding taxpayers. We wouldn’t expect a government entity – or a private company – to reimburse its staff for speeding tickets.”

“Paying the fines of farmers who are deemed to have broken the Animal Welfare Act disincentivises them to care for their animals properly. As our state farming entity, Landcorp should be setting the gold standard for the treatment and care of animals. Landcorp’s website asserts a commitment to ‘leading industry standards with exceptional animal care’ but it is hard to see how bailing out farmers for animal welfare offences supports that.”  

“In one instance we discovered, a farm manager sought a waiver of fees after a cow gave birth to a calf on a moving truck en route to slaughter because there was ‘no intent’ for that outcome and only ‘one animal that was sent’ had this experience.”

“In another, a lame calf with contracted tendons was sent to the works unable to walk properly. Landcorp paid the fine because it considered the farm manager had delegated responsibility to a team who lacked the necessary education to know that sending lame animals for slaughter was not permissible. How is that not negligence?”

“We understand that on farms mistakes happen and animals sometimes suffer for it. But we fine farmers for mistakes and negligence so that they have a stinging financial reminder of their duty of care. Letting Landcorp farmers off scot-free isn’t fair on private sector farmers who work hard to maintain standards of care, and it’s certainly not fair on the animals.”

The Taxpayers’ Union enquired whether Landcorp had a general policy of reimbursing farmers when fined for animal welfare offences, and was told Landcorp assessed each fine on a ‘case by case basis’. Landcorp purportedly take account of whether there is ‘individual wrongdoing’ and ‘acceptable mitigating reasons’ in deciding whether a farmer should be reimbursed. However, Landcorp was unable to provide any correspondence surrounding fines for which it considered reimbursement but ultimately did not pay.

Source documents:

Taxpayers' Union correspondence with Landcorp 

Internal Landcorp emails and infringement notices 

 

Election 2020: Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is reacting with surprise and horror after being accidentally sent the results of tomorrow’s election.

Acting Labour Party General Secretary Rob Salmond inadvertently included your humble Taxpayers’ Union on their union mailing list this year. Traditionally, unions receive advance notice of the election results they have spent so much time and money on.

Election analyst and failed pundit Neil Miller said: “Obviously we were, to use a technical term, completely and utterly gobsmacked by the new Labour and Advance NZ government.”

He is currently reviewing the 2-page coalition agreement – which appears to be mainly 90s clip art – and the 471-page secret annex which has all the good stuff in it.

Campaigns Manager and Frankie Boyle lookalike Louis Houlbrooke added: “Obviously Jacinda Ardern will remain Prime Minister until her job at the United Nations opens up. Kelvin Davis becomes Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister only. His sole official role is limited to ‘looking good in the background during media standups.’”

Ms Ardern revealed Advance NZ was not seriously considered for the deputy role saying: ‘Billy is too crazy even for me, and Jami-Lee is just too… eww.” She then frantically washed her hands for ten minutes after just saying his name.

There are other changes to the Ministerial lineup.

Megan Woods picks up Davis’ Tourism portfolio. It is in mint condition because it has hardly been used. She also gains another minor portfolio in Social Development. She is demoted to number 8 in the Cabinet to, in Ardern’s words, “enable her to focus on her portfolios”. Such kindness.

Chris Hipkins gains Youth Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Veterans Affairs and Ethnic Affairs. He has been shifted to number 16 because, in Ardern’s words, “Christopher John is just a little ambitious for my liking."

Phil Twyford sheds the few remaining portfolios he had in order to become new Minister of Administrative State Services (ASS). Union analysis indicates this is basically Minister of Internal Affairs with particular responsibility for cleaning the Prime Minister’s pictures of (Saint) Michael Joseph Savage on a daily basis.

Twyford has also been promoted to number 3 in Cabinet. Ms Ardern said: “Phil would have been higher but he cannot beat Kelvin’s legendary work ethic, and he’s not bloody having my job."

The unexpectedly large Advance NZ caucus is still in the ‘getting to know you’ stage. Union spies (ok, it was Porky the Waste-hater in sunglasses and a trenchcoat, and worryingly nothing else) report the most common question in caucus is “who the heck are you?” There was also a moment of embarrassment when an errant Parliamentary Security guard was briefly appointed Under-Secretary for Revenue.

Jami-Lee Ross’s bid to become the first Minister for Sundry Affairs was met with universal hilarity.

Billy te Kahika declined all Ministerial posts, not that he was actually offered any. He justified his position saying: “Being a Minister of the Crown would mean ‘they’ would know where I was at all times.”

Sean Plunket astutely asked: “Who exactly are ‘they’? And why would they be interested in a second-rate Antipodean fruit loop?” Billy shot back: “Oh you know who ‘they’ are Sean - if that is your real name. You are one of ‘them’. You all are!” He then put on his favourite tin foil hat, pulled out his 5G cellphone, and made a collect call to the World Zionist Banking Conspiracy.

Asked how the Taxpayers’ Union would deal with such an unusual Government, Executive Director and serial litigant Jordan Williams in his usual chair at Rosie's Cafe in Parnell sobbed into his Double Ristretto Venti Half-Soy Nonfat Decaf Organic Chocolate Brownie Iced Vanilla Double-Shot Gingerbread Frappuccino Extra Hot With Foam Whipped Cream Upside Down Double Blended coffee.

“How the hell did this happen?” he lamented.

Op-ed: AAP needs to fact check itself

Neil MillerThe following is an op-ed by Taxpayers' Union Analyst Neil Miller.

During modern election campaigns there is an increasing emphasis on “fact checking” political statements across the spectrum. Companies have sprung up all over the world to judge the accuracy (or otherwise) of what politicians say on the campaign trail. AAP Fact Checker is the most prominent and prolific organisation of this nature in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is aware of growing international concern that fact checkers are moving well beyond data into politics, even to the point of partisanship in some cases. We decided to analyse the last ten fact checks by AAP Fact Check to find the answers to three questions:

  1. Who did they choose to fact check?
  2. Were the criteria for judgement applied consistently and fairly?
  3. Was there any instances of partisanship or spin?

If you only looked at the numbers, you could be forgiven for thinking that Judith Collins was Prime Minister and National was the largest party in Parliament. Judith Collins was fact checked five times compared to Jacinda Ardern’s two. The other three articles all focused on National MPs (Paul Goldsmith, Jonathan Young, and Simeon Brown). No other Government MPs were fact checked.

That means that 80% of fact checks were on National MPs, and Collins received more than twice as many checks as Ardern. To an independent organisation such as the Taxpayers’ Union, that does not seem balanced.

We move now to the case that really caught our eye. Simeon Brown’s statement on renewable electricity being judged “misleading”, even though all the figures the quoted were correct to the decimal point. We may be naïve idealists, but figures which are true are facts in our book.
Not so, it seems, at AAP Fact Check. They found an academic who opined that the good results under National and poor results under Labour had “largely been independent of government policy.” That is not a fact – that is a matter for political debate around causality and the influence of Government.

However, having introduced this new causality test, we expected it to be applied rigorously. The fact check of Jacinda Ardern’s comment regarding child poverty made no reference to the Government’s power to influence the figures. The test was not applied.

Next, the Prime Minister got credit for getting the numbers “roughly right”, while Brown was called misleading for getting them exactly right, and Collins was criticised for getting state house waiting list numbers “close to the mark with both figures she quoted, but not 100 per cent accurate.” She rounded the figures up. Politicians do that. A lot. There seems to be very different standards applied here as well.

At times, the Fact Check reads more like a political press release. For example, Ardern’s office was allowed to explain what the Prime Minister actually “meant” in her child poverty comments. A luxury that was not extended to others on the list.

The Prime Minister was also fact checked on her claim that Police numbers went down when Judith Collins was Minister of Police. Despite reporting that “NZ Police data shows actual police numbers rose between 2008 and 2016, during which time Ms Collins served two distinct periods as police minister,” the AAP went out of their way to find a wrinkle.

Triumphantly they wrote “when police numbers are described as an officer to resident ratio, they show an improvement during Ms Collins’ first period as police minister (from 1/519 in 2008 to 1/507 in 2011). However, during Ms Collins’ second run as police minister, population growth in NZ largely outstripped the growth in police numbers (1/514 in 2015 to 1/526 in 2016). This is also true when you compare police to resident ratios for 2008 to the same data for 2016.”

As a result, they concluded the Prime Minister’s statement “does contain a significant element or elements of truth.” This is despite the inconvenient fact that Jacinda Ardern‘s statement which was being checked made absolutely no reference to officer to resident ratios. It talked about Police numbers which, again perhaps naively, we assumed to mean the actual number of Police which, factually speaking, went up under The Crusher.

This example is closer to political spin than fact checking. It adds in a new element never mentioned in the original quote and certainly not what the average person would think of when they heard Police numbers.

When they stick to their core job of checking facts (the company name should be a giveaway), they can do a very valuable job. AAP Fact Check looked into David Seymour’s claim that Labour took “$6 billion surplus to a billion-dollar deficit in only two years before Covid happened." They found it was “mostly true”.

Working from Treasury papers, the surplus was $5.5b (not $6b) and the deficit was $0.9b (not $1b). AAP Fact Check concluded: “While there are minor inaccuracies in the numbers he quoted, Seymour's comments were broadly in line with budget figures reported by New Zealand Treasury.”

Now that is how you fact check properly. Just the facts. Shame it was only one out of ten checks.

The AAP Fact Checker should no longer be taken as fact in this campaign.

Op-ed: Asset tax will hit far more than six percent of New Zealanders

IslayThe following is an op-ed by Islay Aitchison, Research Officer at the Taxpayers' Union and spokesperson for the Campaign for Affordable Home Ownership.

While Labour has tried to rule out the Green Party's “wealth tax” policy, James Shaw has described those efforts as “not credible” — so at least according to the Green Party, an asset tax is on the table this election. The Greens have claimed that only the wealthiest six percent of New Zealanders would be hit by the tax, but is that accurate?
 
Any individual with net assets exceeding $1 million would be hit by the tax. While that sounds like a lot of money, many New Zealanders will exceed that in their lifetimes. According to REINZ, the median house price in Auckland was $950,000 in August — in other words, an individual with even modest retirement savings and a mortgage-free home in Auckland should expect to be paying the wealth tax by the time they retire.
 
At minimum, census data suggests approximately 45 percent of Aucklanders — that's 15 percent of the country's population — own their own home. Once mortgage-free, most of those households would find themselves liable for the tax. Many homeowners and entrepreneurs outside of Auckland would be affected by the tax as well.
 
Official statistics indicate far more than six percent of New Zealanders would be affected. Analysis of Stats NZ net wealth data by Eric Crampton of the New Zealand Initiative suggests 20 percent of 66–69 year-olds have net wealth exceeding $1 million. Our own analysis of Household Economic Survey data indicates 21.6% of households had net wealth exceeding $1 million as of 2018.
 
While the Green Party's threshold is higher for couples, it would fall again for a retiree once his or her partner passes away. Many would find themselves burdened by the tax even if they had previously fallen below the threshold while their partners were alive.
 
Even the $1 million threshold is something of a false promise. Due the effect of inflation, the thresholds would effectively become lower over time, pulling New Zealanders who are less wealthy into the scope of the tax.
 
Most importantly, a wealth tax wouldn't just tax our homes and retirement savings — it would punish the economy just as we are recovering from COVID-19. We all rely on strong levels of investment and economic growth to provide good jobs and wages. A tax on assets would punish productive investment and keep Kiwi workers in low-wage jobs, with very little hope of a better standard of living.
 
The Green Party's claim that only a small number of New Zealanders would be affected by their plan to tax wealth is unfair and inaccurate. Many households would be affected by the tax once they pay off their mortgage and retire or after their partner passes away. Many more households would be affected by the lower rates of investment and comparatively lower incomes it would cause.

Revealed: Nearly three quarters of Kiwis oppose an asset tax

Poll graph

Polling released today by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union reveals that 72 percent of New Zealanders oppose an asset tax or “wealth tax”.

Exclusive polling by Curia Market Research commissioned by the Taxpayers’ Union asked respondents, “Do you think there should be a tax that people pay on assets such as houses, cars and KiwiSaver accounts, additional to the existing income tax?

Seventy-two percent said no, 13 percent were unsure, and just 16 percent supported the tax.

Enthusiasm for the tax was particularly low in rural areas, with just 10 percent in support. And even in the most deprived areas a clear majority of respondents opposed the tax.

Islay Aitchison, spokesperson for the Campaign for Affordable Home Ownership, says, “A tax on assets, as advocated by the Green Party, appears to be even less popular than the failed capital gains tax.”

“New Zealanders’ wariness of a wealth tax is well-placed. Such a tax will discourage local investment, sending wealth offshore and making future generations poorer.”

“The polling was on the principle of a tax on assets, not the specific proposed tax by the Green Party. We think opposition would be even higher if voters were aware of the fishhooks in the Green Party’s specific policy. For example, some New Zealanders would find themselves whacked by the tax following the death of their partner, when the tax-free threshold is lowered from $2 million in assets to $1 million. The tax will even apply to a bach or nest egg held by a family trust.”

“Disturbingly, under MMP we could still see this unpopular and unfair tax forced into legislation by the Green Party. They’ve called the tax a ‘top priority’, and current polling suggests they’ll hold the balance of power, meaning they’re in a position to make demands from the Prime Minister.”

The polling covered a sample of 1080 respondents, with a 3.0% margin of error and was conducted between 22 September and 24 September.

Public Service Commissioner intervenes over Oranga Tamariki video

The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union is welcoming intervention from the Public Services Commissioner over a video produced by Oranga Tamariki which appeared to endorse Hon Tracey Martin.

In a response to a complaint from the Union, Commissioner Peter Hughes explained, "In this situation, in my view the content of the video could be interpreted as political endorsement of the Minister and government policies and that is not appropriate."

"I have discussed this matter with the Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki, Mrs Gráinne Moss. She is clear about the need to uphold neutrality in her agency and regrets that the video created the potential for that to be called into question on this occasion. The video has also been taken down."

Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, "We fund Oranga Tamariki to deliver important services for children, not to produce propaganda for its current political master. Public Sector neutrality is especially important this close to an election, so we welcome the Commissioner's intervention and suggest that other agencies take it as a warning."


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