Taxpayer Update: NEW POLL – PM goes negative as Labour hits new low 📊 | Extra holidays for public servants 🏖️💰 | Damien O'Connor's laundry bill 🧺🧼
Welcome to the first Taxpayer Update of 2023! I hope you had a good break.
Yesterday's shock announcement of Jacinda Ardern's resignation as prime minister is likely to improve Labour's chances of re-election later this year, based on numbers we're releasing today in the first political poll of 2023.
We don't yet know who will be facing up against Christopher Luxon on 14 October, but if Labour drops some of its unpopular policies, it could be back in the game.
Our job at the Taxpayers' Union this year is to ensure that the issues we all care about – protecting democratic accountability, scrapping wasteful government spending and keeping our taxes low – are at the heart of the general election campaign.
Last year, we put Three Waters squarely onto the political agenda. With your support, we can do it again and ensure taxpayers are front and centre of the political debate.
NEW POLL: Labour reaches new low 📊
Available exclusively to supporters like you, we can reveal the results of our January Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll.
Labour falls one point from last month to 32% – its lowest ever level in our poll – while National is also down two points to 37%. ACT is up one point and the Greens are up three points with both sitting on 11%.
The smaller parties are New Zealand First on 2.8% and the Māori Party on 1.6%.
Here is how these results would translate to seats in Parliament, assuming all electorate seats are held:
National is down two seats to 49 while Labour is down one seat to 41. ACT is up one seat and the Greens are up four seats to be on 14 seats each. The Māori Party is down two seats to 2.
This means a narrowing of the gap between the two major blocs with the Centre-Right down one seat on last month to a combined 63 seats and the Centre-Left up three seats to a combined total of 55.
The one number that ended a Prime Minister? Ardern's net favourability goes negative for the first time 📉
The outgoing Prime Minister's net favourability rating (that is the percentage of New Zealanders who tell our pollsters they have a 'favourable' view less the percentage who say 'unfavourable') has been gradually declining for quite some time. Back in September 2021, she was on +32% but this month, her ratings went negative for the first time. She leaves office with a score of -1%.
Christopher Luxon similarly scores a result of -1% this month, but his trend over the same period has been upwards. In September 2021, before he took on the National leadership, he was on -33% and he has slowly managed to turn this around.
This month, with much media speculation about New Zealand First re-entering Parliament, we asked respondents for their favourability towards Winston Peters. He scores a very poor -40% and does badly across voters of the four largest parties.
But this year's general election remains on a knife edge 🗳️
While the Centre-Left have not been able to govern on their own in our poll numbers since March last year, the election remains close. The Centre-Right have never been more than three seats over the 61-seat threshold required to form government.
A new prime minister, a new cabinet and potentially a new policy agenda means that everything is still to play for over the next 9 months.
Taxpayers spending at least $75 million per year on additional days off for public servants 🏖️💰
Over the break, our research revealed that public servants are receiving additional days of paid leave, beyond their statutory entitlements, amounting to more than $75 million per year!
In the year that’s been, taxpayers paid public servants for over 167,000 days that they weren’t even at work, excluding the normal four weeks leave and public holidays. It’s a struggle to believe that public servants are working so much harder than the non-government workers who pay their salaries that they need all this additional time off.
While the money spent could have paid for 1,000 extra nurses, instead it was wasted paying a whopping 457 years' worth of leave total for bureaucrats to sit at home.
We fear how high the total number of extra leave days may be, as the data we obtained only account for 36,400 members of the public service when we know there are more than 60,000 employees. Almost all public servants receive an additional three ‘department days’, but some public servants are receiving up to 30 additional days annual leave, which is absolutely ridiculous. We are calling for leave entitlement to be brought in line with the private sector.
Jordan was interviewed on Newstalk ZB about the findings. Click here to listen.
POLL: Kiwis not fans of the reverse Robin Hood Clean Car Discount 🏹💸
Last month, we asked our pollster to find out whether New Zealanders support funding the Government's Clean Car Discount of up to $8,625 on the purchase of some electric and hybrid vehicles by taxing the purchase of non-electric cars up to $5,175 depending on the level of their emissions.
Just 33% of Kiwis supported taxing the purchase of non-electric vehicles to fund the Clean Car Discount. Outright opposition to the scheme was at 47% with those who were unsure at 19%.
Most support for the car tax comes from Green Party voters, Wellington, and younger demographics. And it won't come as a shock that rural New Zealanders, on the other hand, are not fans.
We say the 'clean car discount' is a tax on low and middle-income Kiwis, who are shelling out their hard earned tax-dollars so that wealthier, inner-city residents can buy Teslas. With the cost of living crisis continuing to bite, the Government needs to scrap this unfair tax.
Airing $475 of Minister Damien O’Connor’s dirty laundry 🧺🧼
At the end of last year, one of our student researches spotted a peculiar charge on the Minister’s expenses. While staying at a London hotel in July, Minister O’Connor and his staffer spent $475.00 on laundry services for just two days' worth of clothes.
The Minister appears to be a serial clothes-spoiler. His own receipts show that just two days prior he had used the laundry services of another hotel, this time in Belgium. The Minister's office declined to give us the name of the hotel that the Minister was staying in at the time so that we could verify that the charge was an accurate reflection of the laundry charges of that hotel, citing that “for security reasons, it is not the policy of my office to release the names of hotels used while travelling overseas.”
This is completely at odds with all of the Minister’s previous releases where every hotel the Minister has stayed at was named. It appears that this policy was adopted after we exposed the Minister earlier in the year when one of his staffers bought themselves a $100 breakfast!
Travel sounds grand when it's other people's money...
Kainga Ora spends more than $200,000 on koha between 2019-2021 😲💵
Giving a koha is the Māori custom of gifting to show appreciation. In 2022, this tends to be in the form of a monetary contribution. It’s become common for government departments to give koha when they interact with marae or have someone perform a ceremonial role.
While most agencies that reported comprehensive information about koha in their Annual Reviews had spent less than $10,000 in the financial year 2020/21, Kainga Ora blew all other agencies out of the park with a whopping $123,377.00 spent on koha.
Between 2019 and 2021, the public housing agency spent $204,897.00 on customary monetary gifts, many at $1,500 and $2,000 a pop.
We say Kainga Ora's spending on koha is way out of line. Most other agencies got by just fine with more modest spends. The Ministry for the Environment, The Human Rights Commission, and Waka Kotahi all spent less than $500 on koha over the same period.
Kainga Ora needs to explain to taxpayers why they are such a glaring outlier in this area. The agency is completely out of control, spending over $200,000 on koha between 2019 and 2021 alone. Taxpayers should be able to expect that government spending is prudent and accountable. Kainga Ora is achieving neither of those objectives.
NewstalkZB Taxpayers' Union Executive Director wants Government to remove additional leave entitlements for public servants
NewstalkZB Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance spokesperson on AT replacing HOP Cards with National Ticketing Solution
NewstalkNZ Midday Edition: News Fix [from 01:38]
Autofile Kiwis 'not behind' clean car discount