Conspiracy theories

Yesterday the NZ Herald started a story headlined  Green MP’s 800km taxpayer-funded trip questioned by saying:

Questions are being asked about a taxpayer-funded trip for deaf MP Mojo Mathers to be interviewed on a small provincial radio station.

The Green MP says the 800km trip on the taxpayer dollar was essential, but a taxpayer group queries whether it was fiscally and environmentally responsible. . .

That sounds like the taxpayer group prompted the story by asking the question.

The story continues:

On Friday, Parliament’s only deaf MP flew from Christchurch to Wellington, then drove to Masterton, to participate in ArrowFM’s Wheels on Fire programme for people with disabilities.

ArrowFM is one of 12 Community Access Radio stations in New Zealand, and the only community station in Wairarapa. Its audience is not known, but its Facebook page has 132 “likes”.

Last night Ms Mathers said the journey was a necessary expense because it was “almost impossible for me to do live interviews over the phone”.

 She needed to be face-to-face with the interviewer in order to lip read, she said, especially for a one-hour show.

“As the only disabled Member of Parliament it is really important I represent disabled New Zealanders, which make up one in five New Zealanders,” she said.

“MPs do have to fly a fair bit to get out to our communities. All Green MPs offset our air travel and try to minimise it as much as possible.

“I consider all requests to meet very carefully, including this one, and I felt it was really important to take this opportunity to speak to disabled New Zealanders living in rural communities.”

She did not know the cost of the trip, she said, but it would be declared as part of her expenses, and was planned in line with other work she had to undertake in Wellington.

Planned in line with other work in Wellington means the cost of the airfare wasn’t just for the trip to Masterton, so the extra expense was just the rental car.

But still:

The Taxpayers Union questioned whether it was value for money.

“It’s amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand,” director Jordan Williams said. . .

That, with the headline and first paragraph strongly suggest this story came at the instigation of the Taxpayers Union. But it didn’t.

This morning there has been some criticism of my comments in a story on the Herald website about a trip Mojo Mathers took to Masterton from Christchurch apparently just for a short interview on a community radio station.

For clarification:

  • The Taxpayers’ Union did not seek media attention on this story. There is no associated press release. The Herald called yesterday evening asking for comment, as happens often.
  • The Taxpayers’ Union operate 24 hour media line for comment on taxpayer issues. Yesterday’s call came through to me and I was asked whether it was value for money for an MP to fly 800km for a radio interview on a small community station. I said it was not value for money when the interview could have been done on Skype as well as the comments that are quoted in the story.
  • I’ve made no comment about Ms Mathers disability. In fact, if the travel was necessary I would not criticise the spending. But answering questions posed by the Herald, on matter which as far as I know are completely unrelated to her disability, is legitimate.
  • Accusations that I (or the Union) sought to go after Mathers are ridiculous. To repeat, we were asked for comment by the Herald who were running the story. The comments would have been the same whoever the MP.
  • Accusations that the Taxpayers’ Union are partisan are also silly. I am proud that the Union has gone after National MPs and the current government for expenses, wasteful expenditure and corporate welfare. See’_Union 

On reflection, I wonder why an MP from a party that prides itself for having a low environmental footprint choose to fly to a radio interview that could have been done on Skype. Perhaps Ms Mathers had other engagements in Masterton. If so, that was not the information provided to me at the time by the Herald reporter.

I too wondered if the interview could have been done on Skype but Ms Mathers tweeted that the quality wasn’t high enough for lip reading.

The story looked like an attack on Ms Mathers instigated by the Taxpayers’ Union which was petty to start with and even more so when you take into account the information she planned the trip around other work.

The explanation provided later by the TU shows it was merely responding to a question and it looks like it didn’t have the information that the trip was planned round other activities.

Here’s the conspiracy theory – was the story a set up to discredit the TU?

The group was set up as a counter to all the left wing groups which are continually asking for more money, regardless of whether or not it gives value.

The TU by contrast:

We stand for value for money for government spending

We want our politicians spending money as if they’d worked as hard as us for it and believe that new taxes should only be introduced when there are equal decreases in other taxes.  We believe in a fair and efficient tax system.  We are not a political party, or aligned to any.

We promote sensible restraint of government expenditure by:

  • Scrutinising government spending;
  • Publicising government waste;
  • Arguing for an end to corporate and union welfare; and
  • Promoting an efficient tax system.

 We are independent and incorporated under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908 to pursue the following objectives:

  • To give taxpayers a voice in the corridors of power;
  • To educate New Zealanders against excessive and wasteful government spending;
  • To scrutinise government spending;
  • To publicise government waste;
  • To promote an efficient tax system;
  • To promote discussion on the balance of activities best undertaken by the private sector and the public sector;
  • To promote public policies to advance New Zealanders’ prosperity;
  • To identify, research and monitor issues affecting these objects;
  • To co-operate or join with other associations or bodies having similar objects; and
  • Generally to do all such things as would help to attain or further the Taxpayers’ Union’s objects.

The aims of the Taxpayers’ Union are:

  • To reduce wasteful spending by central and local government;
  • To increase transparency and accountability of government spending;
  • To increase institutional checks on government spending;
  • To enable New Zealanders to easily scrutinise government spending;
  • To lower the tax burden on New Zealanders; and
  • To promote evidence based public policy.

If getting attention for wasteful spending is any gauge the TU has already been successful – and contrary to accusations it’s biased towards the government, is hasn’t been partisan in identifying and publicising waste.

It has been critical of the government.

That should alert all politicians and bureaucrats, in central and local government, to the risk that wasteful spending will be outed.

Those on the left will have greater cause for concern than those on the right who usually, but not always, have greater regard for careful use of other people’s money.

That gets me back to the conspiracy theory.

The Herald headlined and opened the story with the assertion questions were being asked about the trip and quotes only the TU.

It doesn’t say who asked the initial question, nor who told the reporter about the trip and the paper could well use the right to not divulge its sources to keep that in confidence.

But it does leave a question over whether the aim of the story was really to discredit the TU.

If so, while it is justified at feeling aggrieved by a set-up, it could take that as a compliment that it is worrying people and parties who don’t have its regard for the necessity for fiscal prudence.

In the interests of transparency – I have made a donation to the TU.

10 Responses to Conspiracy theories

  1. mjpbeveridge says:

    That is the theory that I had when I started finding out details about the story. Both Mojo and Andrew Campbell are on the record as saying they did not tip off the Herald about it. The reporter has not replied to my tweets or my email asking for comment. But I think there is more to come on this…..

  2. homepaddock says:

    Thanks, I’d missed your post.

  3. Dave Kennedy says:

    Ele it appears that you are suggesting a possibility that the Greens may have set this up to get sympathy. This seems to be a standard sort of response now after an attack on the credibility of the Greens. Metiria was criticized for wearing a smart jacket and living in a Castle then it became her fault for responding that such comments had a racist implication when it wouldn’t be made to nonMaori MPs. Now Mojo’s travel was questioned it is a Green conspiracy to get sympathy and to discredit the TU.

    Even if this was a bit of a beat up there is still the concern that a relatively minor trip by a Green MP is being questioned at all when her parliamentary costs are moderate (despite her special support).

    From October to December last year Mojo’s expenses were:
    accommodation $4,174 (Wellington) $741 (outside Wellington)
    Air travel $10,471
    Surface Travel $3479
    Total: $18,865

    Over the same period Mike Sabin’s expenses (60th on National’s list) were:
    Accommodation $4,803 (Wellington) $1612 (outside Wellington)
    Air travel $24,839
    Surface travel $7,355
    Total: $38,609

    Mojo is a spokesperson on a number of important portfolios for the Greens and is often traveling to support her areas of responsibility.

    Mike may very well be doing valuable work for the Government (I am only looking at the numbers), but his expenses are well above many of his colleagues who are Ministers with substantially greater responsibilities.

    Over the past year Mike’s expenses were amongst the highest in Parliament ($123,973) while Mojo had a total of $69,492

    If the TU were doing diligence to tracking expenses perhaps a wider net could be thrown. Mike does live in Northland which would explain higher travel costs and I am not accusing him of poor use of funding, but I do wonder at where the focus tends to rest when expenses are considered.

  4. homepaddock says:

    No I am not suggesting that, I was careful to not criticise her and pointed out that Skype wasn’t an option and the trip was planned round other commitments. I think she was used to make the TU look petty.

    Meteria was criticised for hypocrisy in criticising National MPs for being out of touch, but as often happens that was lost in the ensuing story.

  5. Gravedodger says:

    Explaining is conceding defeat Ms Mathers.
    Just breathe through your nose and consider what some are saying to you.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with your accepted hearing loss.

    It is all about Hypocrisy and your boyish faced comrade has it in spades.

    Bullshit on the Skype defence I talk to my daughter in Canberra ACT and it is as clear as if she sits across a table using face time on swmbo’s ipad.

    Pop over to No Minister where I have an open letter to you, it can be linked through my post name above.

    Cheers and goodluck, normally I would commend your handling of your hearing loss, pulease dont use it as an excuse, that it aint and will never be.

  6. Dave Kennedy says:

    Ele, obviously mjpbeveridge thought that it was possibly a Green plot (and good on them for following it through to eliminate that possibility), but as there is no single group implicated in this conspiracy against the TU then I can imagine where many readers of your blog will appoint blame. It actually seems more like a media beat up to fill a gap in political controversy.

    It is also one thing to claim that another party is out of touch (based on policies and actions), but quite another to personally attack the speaker for their clothes and home.

    Gravedodger, perhaps Mojo needs to investigate the use of Skype for radio shows, I’m not aware of it happening but it may be possible. I am sorry that you have such an obvious loathing and hatred for the Greens as it drips from every sentence that you write and devalues the points you are trying to make. Your arguments appear to be mainly based on your emotional fixation rather than logic.

  7. Dave Kennedy says:

    And just as a reminder, here is what Jordan Williams is quoted as saying by the Herald:

    “It’s amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand,” director Jordan Williams said.

    “The only silver lining is that the time spent travelling to go on the station in the middle of nowhere is less time spent dreaming up new ways to spend tax payers money.”

  8. Gravedodger says:

    Absolutely no idea why you should be “sorry” that I do not have your mindless sanctimonious joined at the hip adulation for the Green Party.
    I enjoy considerable relief and satisfaction I have not handed my intellect to a bunch of manipulative idiots and can form my own opinions and beliefs.

    I do not “loathe” or “hate” Green party members but I am considerably saddened that the current leadership have crawled into the cloaks of the late Rod Donald and Ms Jeanette Fitzsimons and their shared concern for degradation of our planet, yes there are some things environmental that I share.
    I do oppose developments such as the wholesale conversion of the Balmoral Forest into a giant Dairy farm while Ngai Tahu have no water consents, discharge consents, scheme plan, or resource consents and are creating a mini Oklahoma Panhandle dustbowl as we speak. While there is much concern around some of the effects of the current development in the Amuri basin, nitrogen fertilizer use, leeching from excessive applications coupled with the effluent nitrogen and other nutrient seep, what another 30 000/40 000 cows will generate along the 15 kms of the Hurunui north bank from Glens of Tekoa to The Bluffs. needs scrutiny yet I am unaware of any as the dust blows across the plain
    .Of course there is a very loud cacophany of protest from Kennedy Graham, Mojo Mathers, Eugenie Sage, Steffan Browning, Catherine Delahunty and last but not least Co leader and environment spokesman Russel Norman NOT.
    Nothing to do with the whole chaotic event is being run by the nice tribespeople of Tangata Whenua Ngai Tahu is it?

    Just because I am wont to expose the blatant hypocrisy and economically disastrous policies of known far left and communist activists, sliding around the voting decisions of people with little or zero understanding of the facts while wearing a Cloak of Environmental concern and care that stands them very well in an unquestioning media, please do not try to confuse my absolute opposition to such threatening manipulation as loathing and hatred.
    It is distrust, disgust, dismay and dissatisfaction that drips from my keyboard.
    I know many extremely decent people your mob have brainwashed into thinking it is about the planet and that is revealed every single day by “Boy Wonder” accumulates airpoints flying around the Nation and the World achieving a big fat zero in results he would want his believers to desire while forced funders finance it all.

    Somehow Hypocrite seems so inadequate.
    Charlatan, mountebank, fraudster, swindler, hoaxer, cheat, thief, crook, Gorebull, all have relevance, but I guess The H word must suffice for now.

    Now off you go to BiL Bob and share a bit of R& R while you give me my beans.

  9. Dave Kennedy says:

    Gravedodger, I just had to wipe the phlegm from my face after that response, I hope you feel better 😉

  10. Mr E says:

    Crikey. That is absolute conviction GD. I’m not sure I agree with your delivery on that one. Take care not to identify yourself as a bully GD.

    And well done Dave to take it on the chin. So to speak.

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