Science and Innovation Minister, Steven Joyce hit back at us regarding our recent criticism of the Government's corporate welfare efforts, such as the millions of taxpayer dollars going into ‘company incubators’. The NBR reported on Thursday:
Eight new company incubators are to receive funding under Callaghan Innovation’s incubator support programme.Callaghan, the government funded innovation hub, has included three new technology-focused incubators and five founder-focused incubators in its latest funding round.The three new tech-focused incubators are PowerHouse, Astrolab and WNT Ventures, and will be eligible for up to $450,000 worth in repayable government grants, with the incubator companies matching funding at a one to three ratio of up to $150,000....The tech-focused incubators will focus on commercialising Intellectual property, primarily sourced from publicly funded research organisations, like universities and Crown Research Institutes.The repayable grants are a trial programme, which was allocated $31.3 million over four years in the 2014 Budget....However, the Taxpayer’s Union executive director Jordan Williams has described the government grants as an “example of politicians thinking they know more than IT entrepreneurs.
On Friday, Mr Joyce went the offensive:
Joyce slams Taxpayers’ Union attackScience and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce has slammed the Taxpayers’ Union’s attack on the minister as a “fundamental misunderstanding” by its executive director Jordan Williams.Mr Williams described the $31 million worth of grants to eight new company incubators - under Callaghan Innovation’s incubator support programme - as an example of politicians thinking they know more than IT entrepreneurs.Mr Joyce says Mr William’s comments show a fundamental misunderstanding of both technology-based start-up companies and the intention of the government’s policy.
NBR ONLINE asked the Minister how Callaghan Innovation justifies a 3:1 funding ratio, with the taxpayer taking on 75% of the risk?Mr Joyce replied that the incubators would be funding early stage companies that have arisen from public research organisations, where generally the taxpayer has paid up to 100% of the costs of the research.“The projects that are funded via the incubator are still very early stage, with significant technical risk. The aim of the programme is to get private sector expertise in very early so that the projects have a greater chance of success.
We have called on Mr Joyce to explain what the ‘fundamental misunderstanding’ is. Instead of rebutting our criticisms of the policy, Mr Joyce has just reiterated what the ‘intentions’ are. Unfortunately even the worst policies have the best of intentions.
We hoped to be proven wrong on our fear that the grants are interest free. Instead the Minister confirms the worst, with 40% of the grants expected to be written off and the rest not even adjusted for inflation.
In February the world's third largest software maker, SAP, which last year posted a profit of €1.80 billion, received a similar ‘growth grant'.
For us, the key question are:
- Where is the evidence that the return taxpayers get from the successful start-ups compensate for the money lost on the half that fail?
- Who is ensuring that the decisions made by politicians on what businesses to back are better than what would have happened had the money stayed in taxpayers' pockets?
The Taxpayers’ Union, in collaboration with Fairfax Media, this morning launched "Ratepayers’ Report” hosted by Stuff.co.nz.
Ratepayers’ Report builds on the work of local government expert and financial analyst, Larry Mitchell and his work in previous years comparing New Zealand’s 67 territorial authorities. The data was pulled together by the Taxpayers' Union and supplied to Fairfax Media. Fairfax has had the data checked independently and supplied it to councils for viewing before its publication.
For the first time, New Zealanders now have an interactive online tool to compare their local council to those of the rest of the country. Go to Ratepayersreport.co.nz to compare your local council including average rates, debt per ratepayer and even CEO salaries.
Ratepayers’ Report compares, for the first time, average residential rates. The figure has been calculated using a methodology developed within the local government sector to compare average residential rates. Only Kaipara District Council was unwilling to provide the Taxpayers’ Union with the average residential rates information.
- New Zealand’s highest average residential rates are in the Western Bay of Plenty District, $3,274
- The Mackenzie District has the lowest average residential rates, nearly two thirds less at $1,104
- The average council liabilities are $4,386 per ratepayer
- Auckland Council’s liabilities are now $15,858 per ratepayer (and increasing!)
- Dunedin is not far behind. For every Dunedin ratepayer, the Council owes $15,093
With all the focus on yesterday's budget we nearly missed this piece in yesterday's NZ Property Investor.
Ratepayers underpin vested interests’ development ambitions
The Taxpayers' Union says councils around the country are not telling ratepayers about the cost of capital that ratepayers are underwriting for local authority subsidies.
Jordan Williams brought up the issue in relation to Greater Wellington Regional Council and losses arising from its subsidiary CentrePort as a result of earthquake damage last year.
Radio LIVE spoke to Jordan Williams and David Farrar of the Taxpayers' Union for their analysis of Budget 2014.
TV One’s Breakfast this morning had the Minister of Internal Affairs, Peter Dunne, interviewed about the figures provided in the briefing paper we released yesterday.
Mr Dunne told Rawdon Christie that the profits the Government has made from passports have “been returned to people via a lower fee” (click here to watch the interview).
Mr Dunne is wrong. Our paper shows that New Zealanders are getting the worst deal in the world for a passport. In fact, Mr Dunne’s is sitting on $20.8 million dollars of passport fee profits which are, in effect, a tax on getting a New Zealand passport. That isn't 'cost recovery', it's a 'cost plus' model.
Come on Mr Dunne, stop taxing Kiwis for a passport and bring us into line with the rest of the world by lowering the fees and reintroducing ten year passports.
Following yesterday's submission to the Government Administration Select Committee looking at the issue of ten year passports, and release of Jordan McCluskey's briefing paper showing that a New Zealand passport is the most expensive in the world on a per year basis, the PM isn't ruling out change.
TVNZ's reported John Key's comments that the Government is 'constantly having a look at' the passport term and position and 'the arguments for keep it at five years are about security'.
We don't accept that. Canada and the Netherlands, countries which have very similar visa-free requirements around the world have both recently introduced 10 year passports. Is their passport security less than ours??
What do you think? Click here to comment via our Facebook page.
Stuff has just reported:
BusinessNZ rejects training scheme attacks
Business NZ has hit back at ACC Minister Judith Collins over her attacks on an ACC-funded health and safety training programme run by Business NZ, the Council Of Trade Unions and a private provider.
ACC announced this week that the $1.5 million a year programme would be canned at the end of of 2014 because it was not providing value for money.
Collins had joined criticism of the scheme, which has run since 2003, describing it as a cosy arrangement that had the hallmarks of a scam and a rort.
Business NZ today broke its silence on the issue, with a press release quoting its chief executive, Phil O'Reilly.
"For the record, Business NZ utterly rejects mistaken allegations made by lobbyist Jordan Williams since repeated by the ACC minister," O'Reilly said.
"The BusinessNZ family's involvement has been completely ethical at all times, and I am confident that this is also the case with the involvement of the CTU and Impac Services."
The CTU has also strongly rejected the criticisms by Collins and Williams.
O'Reilly said it was "unfortunate that important debate on workplace safety has been undermined by intemperate media comment".
Media reporting of uninformed assumptions by Williams appeared to have led to the minister's comments, O'Reilly said. continue reading...Read more
Tonight's TV news coverage of the corporate and union welfare exposed earlier today.
ONE News: $19m wasted on health and safety training with 84c per dollar wasted
3 News: ACC dumps workplace training scheme
What's the difference between a 'cafe-style space' and a cafe?
Not a lot, but according to the government-owned monopoly Transpower, a $1.2million 'cafe-style space' is value for money unlike asking staff to visit the dozen cafes within a few hundred metres of its Wellington office building.
In 2012, the taxpayer owned company spent $1.2million refurbishing its reception and building "The Wire" a place where, according to Transpower CEO Patrick Strange, "we can engage and collaborate with each other, and with our guests."
Back in September, a Taxpayer's Union volunteer asked about the new cafe Transpower had built at 96 The Terrace, Wellington. It seems that calling it a "cafe" caused some offence. Transpower said (even bolding the text to emphasis the point):
The space on the ground level of Transpower House is not a café – it is a space for Transpower staff to meet internally and with our key stakeholders.
We were told that the combined cost of the cafe space and adjacent reception area was $1.2million.
Unfortunately, Transpower would not initially tell us how long its lease for the building had remaining. After some haggling, we learned that the current lease expires in 2014.