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It's the corporate welfare which is the problem 

An article published last week by Fairfax has left an incorrect impression on the reason why the Taxpayers' Union objects to the Government signing an R&D cooperation agreement with Israel. 

The Union wishes to clarify that it is the nature of the agreement – that Callaghan Innovation's corporate welfare R&D grants will favour companies working with a particular country – not that the agreement is with a particular country.

Our staff just issued a media release where I clarify:

"When asked by the journalist who called, I specifically said that as an organisation the country is irrelevant and tied my comments back to our long-held position against corporate welfare."

"The journalist then asked whether some taxpayers would have an objection to it being Israel, and I agreed but said that personally, and as an organisation, we didn't."

I'm very annoyed that the caption below my picture on the Stuff website suggests that I objected to the agreement because of being "a deal with Israel whose military is in violent conflict with Palestine". Those words are Fairfax's, not mine. Similarly, where the article states: "Williams said many taxpayers would have an issue with New Zealand signing an agreement with a Middle Eastern country whose military continued to engage in violent conflict" - again not my words.

Apology from LGNZ

The Taxpayers’ Union has accepted a settlement and apology from Local Government New Zealand President Dave Cull relating to public statements he made about the accuracy of the Taxpayers’ Union’s local government league tables, ‘Ratepayers Report’, and honesty of the organisation.

While we make no apology for our research being hard hitting and won’t shy from controversy, we take allegations concerning our honesty very seriously and take pride in our research being accurate and reliable.

In this case, Mr Cull’s comments, published by LGNZ, some of its member councils, and the Dominion Post, were demonstrably wrong. He got the basic facts totally wrong.
 
The only material error, which we will be making further comment on later today, was caused by Auckland Council providing incorrect information under the LGOIMA. No one knew of that prior to Mr Cull’s comments, and any dishonesty was at Auckland Council, not at the offices of the Taxpayers’ Union.
 
We have accepted Mr Cull’s apology and modest financial payment as full and final settlement of this matter.
 
As part of the agreed settlement Mr Cull has provided the following statement: 

On 23 August I wrote an opinion piece regarding my concerns about the quality and utility of Taxpayers' Union 2017 Ratepayer's Report.
 
The Taxpayers' Union has objected to two sentences in the piece, which referred critically to some ratepayer analysis work conducted in 2014. I said: "The organisation got its first attempt at this data fundamentally incorrect in 2014. There were so many errors the material was withdrawn".
 
The Taxpayers' Union has now told me that its 2014 work was taken down because it was out of date, not for any other reason. It has also pointed out that LGNZ's critical review of ratepayer analysis in 2014 related to work done early in 2014 by an independent person, rather than the later Taxpayers' Union’s 2014 Report.
 
As a result, I have asked the Dominion Post to delete from the opinion piece the references to work undertaken in 2014. LGNZ apologises to the Taxpayers' Union for any confusion.
The Taxpayers’ Union expects to make no further comment on this matter.

Should Bob Simcock resign?

download-7.jpgToday's Waikato Times covers our call for Waikato DHB Chair, Bob Simcock, to follow his disgraced Cheif Executive, Nigel Murray, and resign for the lack of oversight and expense scandal, we've been bombarded with feedback from our members and supports in the Waikato region on the issue.

images-13.jpgWe've been looking into this story for some months, and the DHB had, in fact, refused to give us details of the expense claims on the basis that it was subject of an employment investigation.  Now that Mr Murray has resigned, we'll be contacting the DHB on Monday to get details of those expenses.  A resignation is no reason to keep something secret, even if we never know of the (now moot) outcomes of the investigation.

David Farrar has blogged on the issue here:

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So the full story is the DHB hired [CEO, Nigel Murray] despite warnings, his former hospital was poorly run, he didn’t show up at conferences he had been paid to attend overseas, he didn’t disclose his expenses, then finally they turned out to be $108,000 and the local GPs say they can’t work with him.
So how did this carry on for three years? There needs to be accountability from the DHB.

David nails it here.  Given that Mr Simcock was warned about Mr Murray, before he was appointed, how and why on earth wasn't there control systems in place to ensure that this couldn't happen?  It is usually the Chair who signs off on a CEO's expenses, so why hadn't the expenses being public disclosed for years, as is normal in such senior positions across the public sector.

UPDATE: A number of our members and supporters in the Waikato have contacted us today asking us to launch a petition, calling for some accountability and for Mr Simcock to resign.

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Click here to add your voice calling for accountability via the petition.

How much will this election cost you?

We've had a great response to our full-page newspaper ads which ran across the country yesterday.

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The figures are based on our election policy costing "Bribe-O-Meter" which is based on the parties’ own estimated costs of their policies and they have been tracked and verified by our own independent economists. The total figures per household assume that each party spends what it has promised, and does not take into account possible changes arising from negotiations to form a government.  As you can see, the NZ Frist figure, when paired with Labour is lower than the National and New Zealand First total because, in some cases, Labour is also promising to spend the same amounts in the same areas as New Zealand First.

We've just started our online advertising campaign (Ad-roll YouTube, Stuff.co.nz and Facebook ads) to help spread the message.  If you agree that taxpayer rights are important to be protected at this election, chip-in to our online advertising fund at www.taxpayers.org.nz/bribe_o_meter_donate.

Thanks to the thousands of supporters who have chiped-in to make this work possible.  To help spread the word, click here.

Barrie Saunders appointed to Taxpayers' Union Board

Barrie_Saunders_(thumbnail).jpgWell known former Wellington lobbyist and former journalist, Barrie Saunders, has been appointed to the board of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Barrie retired from the government relations consultancy, Saunders Unsworth, in March 2015, after 25 years as a government relations consultant.  The company specialises in the management of public policy issues on behalf of its clients, which are predominantly business organisations and corporates.  

As a government relations consultant, he worked for corporates, groups of corporates and industry organisations including: fishing, used vehicle imports, pharmaceutical advertising, meat, pipfruit, timber, institutes of technology and polytechnic and the New Zealand Business Roundtable, a free market think tank.  Barrie was the executive chairman of the 14 member Port CEO Group, a virtual organisation from 2002 to 2015.   

He was President of the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce  2000-2002 inclusive, is now a life member of the Chamber.  Chairman of CBL, the Chambers investment company 2003/9.  He was a trustee of the Wellington City Mission 1999/2006 and a member of the Housing NZ Board 1994-97.  In 2011 he was appointed a director of TVNZ and completed his second term on April 2017. 

Prior to establishing his government relations business in 1990, Barrie worked as a journalist (radio and TV in New Zealand, Australia and the UK), and the National Business Review, of which was the founding editor in 1970.  He later worked in public relations.  He was press secretary to the Labour Party Leader Bill Rowling (1976-79), Public Relations Manager for the Manufacturers Federation (1979-83) and Public Relations Manager for the NZ Meat Producers Board 1983-86.  He was the Board’s North American Director based in New York from 1986 to the end of 1989.    

A print quality, royalty-free, photo of Barrie is available here

Bribe-O-Meter Update: Adding Up the Cost of Potential Government Coalitions

Mac_Mckenna_photo.jpgIn the final Bribe-O-Meter update before the election, the Taxpayers’ Union has put together the combined manifesto costings for a range of potential coalitions. These figures will allow voters to gain a better understanding of the fiscal implications of a potential Government over the next three-year parliamentary term.
 
This week we have put together all the likely coalition options so that voters have a better idea of what their vote might cost taxpayers. While the coalition totals account for crossovers in policy (so there is no double counting), the figures assume that each party spends what it has promised. It does not take into account possible changes arising from negotiations to form a government.

A National-ACT coalition has promised the lowest new spending, combining for a total of $5.9 billion, or $3,441 per household. National has promised $8.3 billion, and ACT a net-reduction in spending of $2.4 billion over three years.


ACT, National and the Maori Party have promised a combined $18.1 billion, or $10,501 per household. However, 67 percent of this total spending is from the Maori Party alone.
 
A Labour-Green coalition has promised $35.2 billion in new and unique spending, equivalent to $20,397 per household. There is considerable crossover in Labour-Green policies, which has been accounted for.
 
National and New Zealand First have promised a total of $35.8 billion, or $20,788 per household. 77 percent of this spending is from New Zealand First.
 
Labour and New Zealand First have promised $49.6 billion, or $28,744 per household. The Labour-New Zealand First total is made up of 46 percent of Labour Party spending, and 54 percent New Zealand First.
 
A Labour-Green-New Zealand First coalition has promised $61.7 billion, or $35,787 per household. This comprises 37 percent Labour Party spending, 20 percent Green Party spending and 43 percent New Zealand First.

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Cost of party coalition combinations 

  • National/ACT: $5.9 billion, $3,441 per household.
  • National/ACT/Maori: $18.1 billion, $10,501 per household. 
  • Labour/Green: $35.2 billion, $20,397 per household. 
  • National/NZ First: $35.8 billion, $20,788 per household. 
  • Labour/NZ First: $49.6 billion, $28,744 per household. 
  • Labour/Green/NZ First: $61.7 billion, $35,787 per household.

Note that the coalition totals account for crossovers in policy (so they do not necessarily match the sum of the individual party figures listed above).

Transparency Rating

As part of the Bribe-O-Meter, our economic staff have assessed political party's transparency across policy detail and cost and given each a score out of five (see below). The most transparent party has been National. The least transparent is NZ First, closely  followed by the Māori Party.

Click here to visit the 2017 election Bribe-O-Meter

Key findings (as at 9am 18 September):

  • National has promised $8.3 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $4,821 per household. Transparency rating: 5/5
  • Labour has promised $23.0 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $13,353 per household. Transparency rating: 4/5
  • The Green Party has promised $14.9 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $8,645 per household. Transparency rating: 4/5
  • NZ First has promised $27.5 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $15,967 per household. Transparency rating: 0/5
  • ACT has promised $2.4 billion in savings over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $1,381 in savings per household. Transparency rating: 3/5
  • The Māori Party has promised $12.2 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $7,060 per household. Transparency rating: 1/5
  • The Opportunities Party has promised $13.7 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $7,939 per household. Transparency rating: 4/5 

Bribe-O-Meter running red hot (Week 9)

Another week of expensive election promises typifies the penultimate weekly Bribe-O-Meter update. The Green Party and TOP are this week’s big movers, each with over $3 billion in new spending announced in the past seven days. Other m

overs include New Zealand First (a further $1.5 billion) and the National Party ($500 million). The Labour Party are up just $100 million, now with total spending of $22.9 billion over the next three years.

The Green Party has promised to pay the forestry sector an aggregate $630 million per year by 2020, as well as a $990 million universal payment to all working-age New Zealanders, or $250 per person. These two new spending proposals will be funded from a charge on pollution. In addition, the Green Party will establish a Climate Commission at an estimated operating cost of $6 million per year. This brings total Green Party spending over the next parliamentary term to $13.3 billion, which is equivalent to $7,703 per person.

TOP has proposed to hand out $1 billion in unspecified subsidies for fruit and vegetables, to be funded from a 20 percent tax on all junk food. The sum of TOP’s new spending is now $13.7 billion over three years or $7,939 per household.

 
New Zealand First has pledged to increase SuperGold Card entitlements by $800 to $1,000 per person per year. With a growing super-annuitant population, currently about 650,000 people, this policy will cost the Crown more than $500 million per year. New Zealand First spending now totals $27.5 billion over the next three years or $15,967 per household.
 
The National Party has proposed a $74 million per year boost in subsidies for first-home buyers, $180 million in additional funding for elective surgeries over three years, and $57 million toward a specialist mental health facility in Christchurch. National has now promised $8.2 billion, or $4,736 per household, over the next parliamentary term.

Transparency Rating

As part of the Bribe-O-Meter, our economic staff have assessed political party's transparency across policy detail and cost and given each a score out of five (see below). The most transparent party has been National. The least transparent is NZ First, closely followed by the Māori Party. 

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Click here to visit the 2017 election Bribe-O-Meter

Key Findings (As of 9am 12 September):

  • National has promised $8.2 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $4,736 per household.Transparency rating: 5/5
  • Labour has promised $22.9 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $13,287 per household. Transparency rating: 4/5
  • The Green Party has promised $13.3 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $7,703 per household. Transparency rating: 4/5
  • NZ First has promised $27.5 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $15,967 per household. Transparency rating: 0/5
  • ACT has promised $2.4 billion in savings over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $1,407 in savings per household. Transparency rating: 3/5
  • The Māori Party has promised $12.2 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $7,060 per household. Transparency rating: 1/5
  • The Opportunities Party has promised $13.7 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $7,939 per household. Transparency rating: 4/5

Bribe-O-Meter Update: ACT this weeks biggest spender

bribe-o-meter week 8For the first time ever, the ACT Party is the biggest spender in this week's update of the election Bribe-O-Meter. ACT’s big jump is on the back of its education policy, costing $3 billion over the next parliamentary term. This week the Bribe-O-Meter also sees Labour and the Green Party jump by more than $1 billion and National by approximately $0.5 billion.

Getting in on the ACT

ACT has announced a $1 billion per year increase in teacher funding. However, when combined with their other policies such as removing corporate welfare and a cancellation of Budget 2017 welfare increases, ACT’s total package would reduce net government spending by $2.4 billion over the next three years. That’s $1,407 per household.
 
The Labour Party continues to steadily push the fiscal boundaries, with total new spending over the next three years now at $22.8 billion. $22.8 billion is equivalent to $13,237 per household. This week’s new spending came primarily from bringing forward free tertiary education by one year and increasing the student allowance by $50 per week. These two policies will cost taxpayers $2.4 billion over three years. Although it should be remembered that the zero fees policy will be much more expensive once it comes into full effect in 2024.
 
The Green Party has announced a string of environmental policies, with a particular target on farmers. A new nitrogen tax will raise $392 million over three years, accompanied by a $20 million per year increase in funding for sustainable farming and $5 million a year to establish an organic farming certification scheme. However, the Green Party have also promised to cancel all future unappropriated irrigation subsidies so some of this new spending is offset. We have estimated that cancelling these irrigation subsidies will save $280 million in the next three years.
 
Major announcements this week from National included $62m to crack down on meth, $52m to go towards Predator Free New Zealand, and an extension of paid parental leave to 22 weeks at a cost of $205 million over three years. Labour has similarly proposed to increase paid parental - from 26 weeks instead of 22 - costing an estimated $420 million over the next three years.

Transparency Rating

Transparency week 8 As part of the Bribe-O-Meter, our economic staff have assessed political party's transparency across policy detail and cost and given each a score out of five (see below). The most transparent party has been National. The least transparent is NZ First, closely followed by the Māori Party. 

This week we have taken one star off the Green Party because they have failed to release their full alternative budget, as promised. Refer to: http://bit.ly/2eErKvJ 


Click here to visit the 2017 election Bribe-O-Meter

Key Findings (as at 5 September):

  • National has promised $7.6 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $4,422 per household.Transparency rating: 5/5
  • Labour has promised $22.8 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $13,237 per household. Transparency rating: 4/5
  • The Green Party has promised $9.9 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $5,765 per household. Transparency rating: 4/5
  • NZ First has promised $26.0 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $15,062 per household. Transparency rating: 0/5
  • ACT has promised $2.4 billion in savings over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $1,407 in savings per household. Transparency rating: 3/5
  • The Māori Party has promised $12.2 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $7,060 per household. Transparency rating: 1/5
  • The Opportunities Party has promised $10.7 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $6,199 per household. Transparency rating: 4/5

 

Briefing paper: Robin Hood Reversed

Robin_Hood_Reversed_cover.pngFollowing on from Jacinda Ardern's announcement today of Labour's tertiary education policy offering 'free' university study for up to three years, we have released a briefing paper examining whether "zero fees" university really is what the left say it's cracked up to be.

We find that the implementation of a zero fees policy for tertiary education would reach into the pockets of the disadvantaged, to line the wallets of the future’s wealthy.

Contrary to claims that zero tertiary education fees help the poor, we found that similar policies overseas have led to job shortages in crucial areas, and poorer quality courses.

In Scotland, which introduced zero fees in the early 2000's, students from low socio-economic groups were the first to be shut out. This contradicts the political ideology of those who advocate for it, because the policy hampers social mobility, and actually increases barriers to reducing inequality.

The costs of such a policy are borne by low and middle-income earners, to help tomorrow's rich get a free ride."

Key findings: 

  • Taxpayers already cover 84 percent of the cost of obtaining a tertiary degree
  • The average household currently pays $2,456 in tax per year to fund tertiary education
  • Fully implemented, Labour's proposal would increase that cost by $852.57 per year.
  • Low and middle-income earners will pay more to subsidise tomorrow's rich
  • Likely effects of the policy, based on the experience in Scotland with its zero fees policy, include:
    • more job shortages in crucial skills-based areas
    • lower quality tertiary education
    • less access to education for students from disadvantaged or low socioeconomic backgrounds
    • less social mobility and entrenched income inequality. 

Download the PDF report from here. Hard copies are also available for members of the Taxpayers' Union, on request.

Bribe-O-Meter Update: Labour Attempting to Buy the Big Cities

Big spending packages targeted at New Zealand’s major cities account for the majority of the increases in the latest update of the Bribe-O-Meter. Labour has been the most ambitious with expensive new packages targeted at each of the major cities, with other smaller promises from National and the Green Parties.

More Labour Party lollies

In the last week the Labour Party announced new spending packages targeted at the four largest cities. $300 million for a Christchurch Capital Acceleration Fund, $100 million for transport investment in Christchurch, $30 million for the Auckland Skypath, $22 million for a new rail line between Upper Hutt and Trentham and a renewal of the $100m Urban Cycleways Fund.
 
Labour has also committed to building a new Dunedin Hospital. However, unlike National’s proposal, they will not make use of a Public-Private Partnership. Labour claims their Hospital will cost the same as National’s – approximately $1.4 billion over seven years. The Bribe-O-Meter has taken Labour’s costings as being accurate, although this is questionable given the historic efficiency advantages that public-private partnerships have over Government builds.
 
The total cost of these targeted packages is in excess of one billion dollars over the next three years. Labour’s total new spending in the next term is now $20.4 billion, only behind NZ First at $26 billion. Labour’s spending amounts to $11,828 per household compared to $15,062 by NZ First.

Other party promises

Elsewhere, the Green Party has increased their total new spending promises to $9 billion or $5,215 per household. Their major announcements last week were regional transport policies and new environmental spending funded by a plastic bag levy.

The National Party has increased education spending by $290 million over three years and promised $120 million for a new Christchurch sports stadium. Smaller spending includes $500,00 in funding for Winter Olympians and $150,000 to stimulate demand in geothermal energy.

Transparency Rating

As part of the Bribe-O-Meter, the Taxpayers' Union economic staff have assessed political party's transparency across policy detail and cost and given each a score out of five (see below). The most transparent parties have been National and the Greens. The least transparent is NZ First, closely followed by the Maori Party. 

Click here to visit the 2017 election Bribe-O-Meter

Key Findings (as at 28 August):

  • National has promised $7.2 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $4,159 per household. Transparency rating: 5/5
  • Labour has promised $20.4 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $11,828 per household. Transparency rating: 4/5
  • The Green Party has promised $9.0 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $5,215 per household. Transparency rating: 5/5
  • NZ First has promised $26 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $15,062 per household. Transparency rating: 0/5
  • ACT has promised $5.4 billion in taxpayer savings over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $3,103 in savings per household. Transparency rating: 3/5
  • The Maori Party has promised $12.2 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $7,060 per household. Transparency rating: 1/5
  • The Opportunities Party has promised $10.7 billion in new spending over the next parliamentary term. This equates to $6,199 per household. Transparency rating: 4/5

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