Jonsie Awards highlight waste

The Taxpayers’ Union is often mislabeled right wing.

Championing taxpayers and sensible spending of their money is not partisan.

Wherever you sit on the political spectrum wasteful spending of public funds is abhorrent.

Not convinced? Have a look at the candidates for the annual Jonsie Awards,named after Hon Shane Jones, the winner of the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in government waste.

Union spokesman and Jonesies host Louis Houlbrooke says, “Taxpayers are likely to view the wasteful spending presented today in the context of the current pandemic. How, for example, can the Government justify spending $17 million on art therapy programmes when our DHBs are crying out for more resources in intensive care?”

“Similarly, local councils across the country have this year implemented record rate hikes, while failing to make the budgetary sacrifices experienced by households losing income during lockdown.”

“While the presentation of awards is tongue-in-cheek, it does serve a serious purpose: the Jonesies remind those who squander public money that they risk squandering their public reputation, and potentially, their careers. The awards give those who fleece the taxpayer the credit they so richly deserve.” . .

And the Lifetime Achievement Award goes to:

Hon Grant Robertson gained his political experience in student politics, even writing a dissertation on the subject, before graduating to roles at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the United Nations.

After stints advising Helen Clark and working for the University of Otago, he was elected as the MP for Wellington Central, the one seat that doesn’t seem to care about private sector experience.

In 2017 he was appointed Finance Minister for the Labour Government, and maintained a fairly conservative approach to public finances until the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

He announced a $12 billion COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund and quickly topped it up by another $50 billion. This soon revealed itself to be a Provincial Growth Fund-style slush fund, only at far greater scale.

Examples of spending from the Finance Minister’s “COVID response” fund include $12 million for flood protection in the Far North, $26 million for cameras on fishing boats, $50 million for “regional digital connectivity”, $52 million for the horse racing industry, $55 million for “public interest” journalism, $87 million on internet modems for school kids (including Mike Hosking’s child), $100 million for affordable housing projects, $155 million for “Transformative energy” projects, $200 milion on a new building for the University of Auckland, $210 million for “Climate resilience” projects, $374 million in arts grants (including $17 million for art therapy programmes), $515 million for school lunches, $761 million to support Three Waters reform, and $1.2 billion on “jobs for nature” such as paying people to shoot wallabies.

Only about a quarter of the money was spent on wage subsidies.

Inevitably, the fund ran dry upon the arrival of a second COVID outbreak. Grant Robertson simply announced he would top it up by another $7 billion.

Grant Robertson’s “no new taxes” promise was also jettisoned at some point, with new taxes on housing investments and a new 39 percent tax rate for high-earners.

It is only fair that we give Grant Robertson the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in government waste – for making Shane Jones look like a symbol of lean and efficient government. . .

Nominees and winners in other categories can be found by clicking on the link above.


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