The Climate Change Commission plans to up-end our economy with a highly political, centrally-planned regulatory agenda. Jordan is joined by Oliver Hartwich, Executive Director at the New Zealand Initiative, to untangle this mess.
The Climate Change Commission plans to up-end our economy with a highly political, centrally-planned regulatory agenda. Jordan is joined by Oliver Hartwich, Executive Director at the New Zealand Initiative, to untangle this mess.
In just one minute this morning, Broadcaster of National Importance Mike Hosking made a fundamental error in his comments urging local councils to “merge, merge, and merge some more”.
He completely dismissed the entire concept of local democracy. You know, that thing where you get to vote for the people who will be representing you on council and spending your rates. He says: “Democracy is a wonderful thing… but like most things you can have too much, and that’s our plight.” He hopes the unelected commissioners at Tauranga City Council, who immediately proposed a 12 percent rates hike, “show that expertise actually beats democracy.”
Slow down tiger. You may have the highest rated radio show in New Zealand but abolishing elections in favour of Government appointed officials changes the entire nature of our council system. This would take both the “local” and the “democracy” out of “local democracy”, and our country would be the poorer for it.
Are there underperforming councillors or representatives who are out of their depth? Absolutely, but we ratepayers can vote them out at the next election, or more quickly if the Government adopts the Taxpayers’ Union’s well-researched policy of local body recall elections. As it stands, the hard-working families of Tauranga have no say in how long Commissioner Anne Tolley will be in charge nor the ability to pass judgement on her sweeping (and expensive) changes.
Sure, there may be “hobbyists”, “do-gooders” and even the odd weirdo in our Council chambers, but they are our hobbyists, do-gooders and weirdos. We do not want the Minister of Local Government or even the host of Newstalk ZB appointing our councils because they think they can judge “expertise” over representation.
The Union’s focus is on holding elected councillors to account for their actions and helping them do better, not replacing them with Government stooges and bureaucrats. "Expertise actually beats democracy" should send chills down the spine of every New Zealander.
The following is a diary note from Dr Megan Woods. (satire)
My big housing announcement did not go nearly as well as expected.
People are missing the big picture which is about community, inclusivity, well-being, and kindness.
Instead, they are overly fixated on the numbers. Specifically, the number 12 – because that is the exact number of homes we have gotten people into within just three years of my flagship housing policy.
You know it is a bad sign when Phil Twyford is mocking you in caucus. I caught him outside my electorate office building a billboard with that terrible “The Count” cartoon on it. In the ten minutes I watched, Phil managed to nail his jacket to the framing, and then the semi-erect billboard fell on him. It took me ten minutes to get through to emergency services because I was laughing so hard.
This was poetic justice as Phil is responsible for my PR issue.
When I took over his “Kiwibuild Triumph” (as he and only he called it), I foolishly asked for his advice. I had already decided to pretend his flagship policy never happened and not mention it ever again. However, I was bit hazier on the details of my own flagship policy which was going to replace Kiwibuild (if it existed, which it didn’t) and solve the housing crisis (which existed when we were in opposition but ended the instant Jacinda was sworn in).
Dr Woods: Phil honey, I was thinking the target should be a nice round number. For three years and all the money Grant Robertson has given me, 100,000 seems reasonable.
Phil: Oh no Megan poppet. Housing is so much more complicated than just building a house.
Dr Woods: You have certainly demonstrated that in recent years Phil bunny. How about 10,000?
Phil: I fear you are being overly optimistic Meggy Weggy. I was thinking 10.
So, this week we actually exceeded our own secret internal target by 20%, and yet we get zero credit for it! This policy was approved at the very highest level. Working on it late one night in the Beehive, Helen Clark emerged from the shadows in my office and cast her firm but caring eye over my document.
Dr Woods: I need your advice o great and wise one. I was thinking of applying a policy principle that government and councils should get out of the way and make it easier for people to get their own homes.
Rt Hon Helen Clark: Wrong youngling. That sounds like something National would promise and then fail to deliver. You need something that sounds like what Labour would say, and then fail to deliver.
My policy proposal spontaneously caught fire under her kindly stare. Fortunately, Heather Simpson had prepared a completely different housing policy and it was implemented the next morning. Democracy in action is a marvelous thing.
The following is a leaked diary entry written by Ricardo Menendez March MP. [Satire]
Gracefully returning from Mexico, the third most deadly hotspot for COVID-19, suddenly I am confronted by a border guard demanding all this paperwork about quarantine, isolation, and contact tracing that apparently I, a busy Member of Parliament, should have filled in “months ago”. “Months ago?” – who can understand such bureaucratic jargon?
Responding to the frontline staff, I point out the obvious absurdity in his argument. “Next”, I quip, “you will be saying that Kiwis should not travel to Mexico at all.” He produces a piece of paper from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade saying exactly that. However, I spot that it is almost a year old. I cannot be expected to keep up with these historical edicts about the country of my birth and long intended travel destination. I am a list MP.
This will not stand. I fix the guard with my most smoldering Central American gaze and confidently ask: “Do you know who I am?”
Turns out he has absolutely no idea who I am, and no one in the growing and increasingly restless line behind me can help him. Someone quipped that I might be “Cliff Curtis’ less famous brother” which was the best of a bad bunch.
I decide to go over the guard’s head and ask my old comrade Chris Hipkins for an emergency MIQ slot. Problem solved, so I return to Koru Club for a free-range soy latte with a twist of GMO-free lemon.
Well, it seems that Minister Hipkins (as he insists I call him) either does not know who I am, does not care who I am, or does not consider backbench Green list MPs to be a service “time-critical for the purpose of delivering specialist health services required to prevent serious illness, injury or death; or the maintenance of essential health infrastructure.”
Undeterred, I lodge another application for an emergency exemption on the grounds that my “urgent travel is required for national security, national interest or law enforcement reasons.” It is also declined, but I do not think the Minister had to address the letter “To who it may concern”.
Over a leisurely dandelion and bog myrtle muffin in the lounge, I realise this situation could actually look bad from a PR perspective. Even the tamest of journalists will occasionally latch onto stories about Green MPs who preach carbon neutrality constantly topping the frequent flyer mile chart, or members of the most principled party in Parliament repeatedly trying to use their status to jump the queue on the grounds of non-existent health expertise or for reasons of national security.
I call in our communications “big gun” – though the Greens' musterer insists he/she/they are referred to as “the sizable inclusive conversationalist”.
It is Clint. He may have a surname, but everyone calls him “Hey Clint” for some reason. Probably a cultural title… Hola Ricardo has quite a ring to it. Will write to the Speaker and see what he/she/they think of my plan.
“Hey Clint” has come up with a great strategy for when the opposition and media find out what I have done. I should say that I never wanted either of the emergency exemptions I applied for. You know, both those applications that used up time and resources from officials, the head of MBIE, party leader James Shaw, and Minister Hipkins. I am sure they relished a bit of excitement during these quiet days of summer.
He – and I now have written permission to call Clint he – suggested I mention family illnesses and my long-term partner as often as possible, but not mention I go to Mexico at this time every year.
On reflection, this might actually be good for my career. I have never had so much coverage. I should go on holiday more often.
The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that former Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters was thrown an $11,733 farewell party by the new Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and her Ministry.
The bill covered catering, event furniture hire, and technical costs. Guests included the Prime Minister, other Ministers, diplomats, and their spouses. The Taxpayers’ Union understands that, despite Parliamentary protocol requiring invitations to all Parliamentary Parties for events held at Parliament, no opposition MPs were invited - not even one.
Nanaia Mahuta needs explain why she thought it was a good idea to spend $12,000 of our money on party for a politician who has already enjoyed a lifetime of largesse.
We can think of no other instance where an MP that has failed to be re-elected has had a party thrown for him by his successor. When we asked MFAT how much the department spent, they tried to ease the blow by saying that they had only covered 50 percent of the bill. It wasn’t until after further prodding that they revealed the rest of the spending came from their new Minister!
Considering venue hire was free, that's a hell of a lot of good food and top shelf grog.
Many taxpayers could think of far better uses of $12,000 than a party thrown for a politician, by politicians.
Below is the Taxpayers' Union's submission on the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill. You can also read it in a new window here.
Jordan Williams also presented to the Māori Affairs select committee, and took questions from MPs. Video is available below.
The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is repaying the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy and is calling on other unions and political groups to do the same. A petition has been launched at www.taxpayers.org.nz/payitback.
When the Government last year made the unprecedented decision to lock down New Zealand’s economy, the Taxpayers’ Union publicly supported the Government’s moves to assist businesses in retaining employees.
However, the wage subsidy’s broad eligibility criteria and New Zealand’s surprising short-term economic bounceback has left many entities in a position to repay their taxpayer-funded subsidy.”
In December, the Taxpayers’ Union made the decision to repay its own wage subsidy payment, with monthly instalments over a period no longer than 24 months.
Unlike other unions we are almost totally funded by donations. That saw our revenue particularly hard-hit by the lockdowns. But we are in a better position now, and we are confident that over the coming months, we’ll be able to pay it back and return to our default position of not being government funded.
We’re challenging other all other unions to do the same. No union should profit, especially when financed by taxpayers, from a pandemic.
The Government’s trade union partners such as First Union and E Tū received hundreds of thousands in taxpayer money, despite having steady revenue streams from member dues. In fact, these unions were left with enough funds to run campaigns during the election to help re-elect the Government.
A handful of local councils also received the wage subsidy, despite having the ability to extract revenue from ratepayers at will. Even worse, instead of cutting back, councils actually grew their staff numbers in 2020. We’re calling on Tauranga District Council, Waikato District Council, and Northland Regional Council to repay the subsidy that all other local councils survived without.
The Taxpayers' Union's wage subsidy payment was audited by the Ministry of Social Development, which found that the Union qualified for the payment.
A masterclass by Hon Damien O’Connor, Minister of Trade
The enhanced free trade agreement with China has passed and I was ready to bask in the media adulation. This was quite the feather in my West Coast fishing hat given I had only been Minister of Trade for less than four months – most of that over the summer break.
I must confess to being later surprised and disappointed at the lack of media adulation, even from The Spinoff. Apparently, this deal had been worked on for years and was bound to happen. One of my young staffers (or possibly a new Labour MP, it’s hard to tell these days) suggested that “even Phil Twyford could have gotten this agreement through.”
Back home we would have thrown the troublemaker down a mine, back in the days we had mines on the West Coast. Today, he’d probably hit some camera drone stuck in a rockfall and I would get sued. I miss the old days.
Putting that slight setback behind, it was time to establish my legacy beyond just trade. I plan to be a player on the world stage. The starting point was obvious: Our closest neighbour and major trading partner, Australia. They are always open to constructive criticism from Kiwis.
International relations with China seemed like a safe place to start my global punditry. Neither Australia nor China are at all touchy about third parties commenting on their geo-political affairs.
After reading a copy of The Economist which had been sitting in my lobby for nearly four months, I decided against lecturing the Aussies. Under that brash exterior, they are sensitive and surprisingly fragile souls. So instead, I went with the educative approach.
My key messages were:
◾ Do what New Zealand does, because we are better than Australia.
◾ Be respectful to China like New Zealand is. Australia, by inference, is not.
◾ Develop a mature relationship with China like New Zealand has. Australia, by inference, has not. I am not saying the Sino-Ocker relationship is immature, just that it is not mature.
◾ My counterparts in Canberra should choose their words carefully because words matter in diplomacy. I think that I have graphically demonstrated that principle here.
My comments got a lot of media coverage which is obviously a good thing when most people do not know that you have been an MP for 26 years and a Minister of the Crown for nine years.
Once I actually read the media coverage, it was not as positive as I expected. In fact, it was not positive at all. I wanted headlines like “Magnanimous Minister helps struggling Trans-Tasman sibling”. Instead, I get “A trade minister goes on record going way off script.” That’s not very kind. Ingrates.
The media has overlooked my credentials in cross-border trade. I have brokered deals between Greymouth and New Plymouth, which counts as international commerce where I come from.
I heard that the Australian Trade Minister – you know, whatshisname – respects my view. Quite right, and I think this reflects my standing in the international pecking order. However, that same pesky staffer, who I would have fired if Andrew Little had not abolished all the laws allowing you to fire people, pointed out that “respects my view” in Australian Parliamentary slang is short for “bring it outside mate, if you think you are hard enough.”
Australian politics are odd. Still, at least Grant Robertson respects my view here. He told me himself at Cabinet the other day.
Bottom line: I antagonised both our major trading partners in one interview for no discernable reason.
Key thing is: Got my name in the paper!
On Sunday the Climate Change Commission released its long-awaited draft advice for cutting New Zealand's emissions.
It's a long (800 page) list of demands. It basically goes through every emissions sector to pick and choose who will be allowed to emit what over the coming years.
The media have focused on the proposed ban on importing petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032. But the Commission's suggestion that fuel prices need to increase by 30 cents has received less attention.
Prior to the election, Jacinda Ardern made a promise that her Government would not increase fuel tax any further. She must now confirm to New Zealanders whether her promise still stands.
Fuel tax is nasty enough as it is. It disproportionately hits the poor, who generally own older, less efficient vehicles, and for whom electric vehicles aren’t realistic. It’s not good enough for the Beehive to expect shift workers in outer suburbs to ‘get the bus’ or cycle while the rich can go electric.
The Commission’s economic forecasts are ridiculously optimistic. Their report claims the costs of its emissions plans represent just one percent of GDP.
That figure contrasts with work done by the NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) two years ago. As we pointed out to Stuff, the NZIER boffins concluded that this sort of pathway would cost 16.8 percent of GDP. That's a big difference!
The significance of this document and the six-week consultation process cannot be overstated. It plans wholesale changes to the New Zealand economy through central planning. That didn’t work well for economies, and it wont work for emissions.
New Zealand already has a successful Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). We say, rather than have bureaucrats dictate every sector’s transformation and emissions cap, the budget should simply determine the overall cap and allow the ETS to do its job. That would see those sectors that can more easily adjust follow market incentives.
The key question is this: should politicians be planning who can emit what and when, or should they be setting the overall cap and let New Zealanders figure out where emissions can be most efficiently cut through the ETS?
For the most expensive infrastructure project in New Zealand’s history the Government has failed to even conduct a standard cost-benefit analysis to find out whether the project was actually worthwhile, Stuff reports.
A cost-benefit analysis should be the first step, but instead the Government rushed ahead and spent $5 million on reports to work out who should build the thing.
The Government’s plan to choose the contractor first and do the cost benefit analysis later stinks of railroading a pet project through Cabinet regardless of the value for taxpayers. It's a recipe for 'Think Big' style waste.
The Reserve Bank, which is currently printing $100 billion in the name of economic stimulus, is looking for a new "Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing" advisor.
You'd think the Bank could hire someone to sort out more pressing problems: the impact of its monetary policy on the housing crisis, for example. Or the holes in its cybersecurity systems.
The Infrastructure Minister has claimed that a $9 million spend on a marae facility in Southland will create 41 jobs.
He is wrong. This spending will destroy jobs.
Because the money is borrowed, future taxpayers from Kerikeri to the Bluff will pay for it plus interest. Those taxpayers will then have less to spend on businesses that provide goods and services that people actually want. When those businesses lose revenue, they’ll be less able to employ New Zealanders.
Further, that tax will create a disincentive for New Zealanders to work and be productive. Economists call this effect 'deadweight loss'. We released a briefing paper on the topic last year which reveals that the deadweight loss effect of the government's total $96 million spend on marae renovations will destroy around 205 jobs.
Of course, this spend-up isn't really about creating jobs: it’s classic pork-barrel politics dressed up as a COVID-19 response.
The Reserve Bank this week announced that between 2013 and 2018 the 'Māori economy' grew almost twice as fast as GDP.
In practice, the Bank is measuring the growth of iwi-owned businesses.
Why are these businesses doing so much better than others? Here's one good reason: they pay a lower corporate tax rate of 17.5%, compared to 28% for non-iwi-owned companies.
No-one should begrudge businesses for doing well. But wouldn't it be great if all businesses benefited from a lower tax rate?
In the meantime, perhaps iwi could use a drop of their booming wealth to cover the cost of their marae do-ups?
New Zealand has once again ranked best in the world in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index. But let's not break out the bubbly.
The corruption perception index measures just that: perception. In fact, a low perception of corruption could be taken as a warning sign of complacency.
We need to be particularly alert to the government’s tendering processes. As a small country where it sometimes feels like everyone knows everyone, New Zealand is especially vulnerable to cosy deals between the government and its preferred contractors.
Taxpayers deserve competitive and fair tender processes, but the trend is in the opposite direction, with the government and local councils limiting access to tenders with "Māori procurement" targets and "local procurement" policies. This should ring alarm bells.
And then there are slush funds like the Provincial Growth Fund – over the weekend it was revealed that one of the Fund's West Coast bosses has now been appointed CEO of a local tourism company that received $18 million from that fund. Read Jordan's comments to media here.
In November, Chris Hipkins claimed New Zealand would be 'at the front of the queue' for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Instead, while 32 out of 37 OECD countries have already begun mass vaccinations, we're not on track to begin until April at the earliest.
We're being left in the dust by other countries. The media should be tracking these figures:
Taxpayers are already facing a massive blowout in public debt due to last year's lockdown. We cannot afford another.
With our managed isolation facilities continuing to present a major risk, the government should be moving heaven and earth to at the very least get our border workers vaccinated ASAP.
Thank you for your support.
Stuff Judith Collins suspects economic cost of climate action would be higher than commission estimates
Waatea News Lobby group smell pork in marae funding
Cactus Kate The Reserve Bank's Bold Answer To The Housing Crisis - Diversity!
Stuff Scramble in Trevor Mallard case when judge won't rubberstamp suppression
Rotorua Daily Post Hemo sculpture Te Ahi Tupua completed with official blessing
Point of Order The political payoff is plain but is it smart to borrow $219,512 per job (mostly temporary) to spruce up the Murihiku Marae?
This morning we revealed that in just 12 months Creative NZ paid out grants worth $631,266 to recipients in Germany, the UK, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Poland, South Korea, Fiji, the Netherlands, the Cook Islands, and the United States.
And of the 25 grants, 15 came from a COVID-19 response fund!
Ngahiraka Mason, who resides in the USA, was given $24,000 towards “a reflective, comparative and critical piece of writing”.
Brian Falkner in Australia was given $13,334 towards “writing a new novel set in an all too possible near future”.
Susie Elliot, who is Fijian and resides in Fiji, was given $11,790.99 towards “wage, materials, production costs, travel and accommodation to create and develop a new body of illustrations and video works”.
Luke Thompson, based in the United Kingdom, was awarded $42,000 towards “intensive research and development”.
Creative NZ released this information to us via an official information request which admits that Creative NZ does not require grant recipients to be New Zealand citizens. In fact, recipients included foreign arthouses such as London’s Royal Academy of Arts, which was paid $75,000 to exhibit paintings by New Zealand artist Rita Angus.
It’s galling that while Kiwi families were grappling with the economic effects of the worst pandemic in living memory, Creative NZ sent hundreds of thousands of dollars overseas to high-flying arts luvvies and international art houses.
At least when Creative NZ gave someone $50,000 to make an ‘indigenised hypno-soundscape’, that money was spent in New Zealand. But the cash Creative NZ sends overseas is a total loss for the local economy. We don’t even get back the GST!
RNZ, which is funded by taxpayer money, recently published an article written by Victoria University lecturer who argues that the government's money does not belong to taxpayers and the media should stop calling it 'taxpayer money'.
The author even singles out the Taxpayers' Union and accuses us of "breaching the social contract!'
We approached RNZ with a response, but apparently they're not interested in publishing both sides. Regardless, you can read my response here.
Regardless of whether the government’s money is taxed, borrowed, or freshly-minted, every dollar spent on theatre for the homeless or slides on the lawn of Parliament is a dollar that could have instead been spent by the taxpayers and ratepayers who keep this country afloat, on things they actually need and desire. The phrase ‘taxpayer money’ is shorthand for this inescapable trade-off.
The Herald reports that ACC sent a taxpayer-funded payout to China for the death of an illegal worker at an Auckland building site.
While New Zealanders will have immense sympathy for the victim’s family, many will also be appalled that an overstayer seemingly has the same rights as New Zealanders who pay tax and levies into the ACC system.
To make things worse, ACC is refusing to confirm how or why it became policy to make payouts for illegal overstayers.
We say the ACC Minister, Carmel Sepuloni, must explain how this became the policy, and if she agrees with it.
Remember we said over summer that there'd be even more costs associated with Rotorua's $743,000 bungled Hemo Gorge Statute Monument to Government Waste? Well it turns out the whole thing is at risk of collapse and now a safety fence has been erected by the Rotorua Lakes Council!
When contractors tried to install the monument last September, the pieces literally didn’t fit together. Contractors had to cut out pieces so the inner parts could fit. That cutting revealed the tubing structure has not been built to specifications, with an engineering report saying engineers ‘cannot prove whether the defects observed are isolated or systematic throughout the inner and/or outer [monument] tubes’.
The report concludes that the monument "exceeds design loads by 620 per cent”.
As Jordan told Stuff: This Rotorua ‘monument to government waste’ is truly living up to its name. It’s time the engineers at NZTA stepped in and took over this bungled Council vanity project.
Facing a serious risk of ongoing lockdowns, we literally cannot afford to derail the COVID-19 vaccination rollout with race-based politics.
But that's what's happening, with Māori reportedly being prioritised for the vaccine.
Vaccination against a pandemic is core government service – taxpayers fund the vaccination programme to build resilience for the wider community, not one particular demographic.
We must not elevate race above the many more relevant factors that determine vulnerability to COVID-19, such as age, pre-existing conditions, and physical exposure to other people. Likewise, if we want to target groups with historically low vaccination rates, we should be precise with our targeting, looking at factors like income level and geographic isolation.
Singling out the entire Māori cohort – 17 percent of the population – as a target group will mean our limited vaccination resources are targeted away from non-Māori individuals with greater need. That’s not just unfair, it’s potentially disastrous for our COVID-19 response.
An extraordinary investigation by Crux has uncovered serious apparent conflicts of interest at Queenstown-Lakes District Council.
In one example, consultants with personal connections to Mayor Jim Boult – including his children's nanny – were paid $150 an hour for 135 days to review one of three council bylaws. And they got the contract without an open tender process.
Our team is looking into the detail of this story, and we've also written to the Auditor-General to investigate.
Now, New Plymouth has unveiled its own rainbow crossing (below), so we asked how much was spent.
Perhaps proximity to the Beehive increases the cost of public works?
Have a great weekend,
Crux Mayor asks CEO Theelen to investigate himself as ZQN7 scandal grows
Stuff Claim and counter claim as $740,000 sculpture stoush rumbles on
RNZ Government money not equal to 'taxpayer money'
Crux You be the judge: Is QLDC telling the truth over how it spends our money?
Stuff Sculpture stoush heats up with claims of 'red herring' reports and 'DIY disaster'
NZ Herald Mayors spending thousands of dollars on food, wine and flowers
Northland Age Money for nothing
Homepaddock Anatomy of a Prison Disorder Incident
Point of Order Privacy Commissioner posts his peeve about the power of private companies (on Twitter) after social media giants gag Trump
Joining the Taxpayers' Union costs only $25 and entitles you to attend our annual conference, AGM and other events.
With your support we can make the Taxpayers' Union a strong voice exposing waste and standing up for Kiwi taxpayers.
Often the best information comes from those inside the public service or local government. We guarantee your anonymity and your privacy.