Really is a tax grab

07/07/2021

The ute tax isn’t just a tax, it’s a tax grab:

The sheer scale and cost of Labour’s ‘clean car rebate’ has been revealed today in answers to written parliamentary questions from the Act Party.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams said: “When this policy was first announced, we immediately labelled it a Car Tax that would have absolutely no impact on carbon emissions. However, it seems that we actually underestimated the real impact.”

“More than 100,000 New Zealand car owners could be affected by this virtue signalling tax. In addition, the Government is projected to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars more than it will pay back in rebates. There are simply not enough electric vehicles available – now and in the foreseeable future – to make this a revenue-neutral policy as the Government has suggested.”

The government has been attempting to spin the tax as a fee. Call it what they will, it is a tax, it’s broken  the no-more-taxes .promise and it will be taking far more form the people taxed than it will give back in rebates.

“Of course the elephant in the room is that this policy does nothing for the environment because transport is already covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme. That means any emissions saved by the move to electric cars are simply made available for cheaper emissions elsewhere. What is really promoting this is the tax boost to the Government coffers.”

Kiwis are encouraged to sign the official petition at www.CarTax.co.nz, which is about to click over 30,000.

Farmers and tradespeople are obvious targets for this tax but it will hit far more business and service providers.

Emergency services, country GPs and midwives, Search and Rescue, power companies and various local and central government entities including councils, the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and Department of Conservation (DoC), need utes and SUVs for their work.

The tax might/ be a relatively small part of the total cost of buying a vehicle, but lots of small parts add up and impose more costs on businesses and service providers that either make them less profitable or have to be passed on to customers and service-users.

It would be bad enough if it was going to have a positive impact on emissions, but it won’t.  Compounding that, it will take far more than can be used for the purpose for which the government bases its justification which makes it not just a tax, but a tax grab.


Taxing poor to help rich

14/06/2021

The government has broken another promise with its policy on electric vehicles which will hurt the poor and do nothing to reduce emissions:

The proposed penalty on ‘gas guzzling’ vehicles is a painful, regressive tax, and does zip for saving overall emissions due to transport already being in the Emissions Trading Scheme points out the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

“This is the sort of policy you implement when you want appearances to defeat reality,” says Jordan Williams a spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union. “This policy doesn’t even lead to lower overall emissions. The Emperor has no clothes.”

Like so much else this government does – the promise sounds good but the results won’t be.

“Ministers either don’t understand the ETS or are lying about environmental benefits of this scheme.”

Transport Minister Michael Woods claims that up to 9.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions will be ‘prevented’ by 2050. But land transport is already in the ETS. That means that every emission ‘saved’ goes elsewhere under our cap-and-trade model.  It’s called the ‘waterbed effect’ and is precisely why the UN recommends against this sort of political direct intervention.

The waterbed effect is like whack-a mole – push one down here and another pops up there.

“This lack of understanding of the ETS — or deliberate greenwashing — is shocking. Ministers should be hounded by journalists for even trying to pull this line off.”

“Not only does this measure do nothing to reduce overall greenhouse gas, but it also comes at a huge cost to Labour’s traditional working-class supporters who won’t be able to afford to replace gas guzzlers.” . . 

Which is worse, not understanding the ETS or deliberate greenwashing?

The former would be incompetence the latter is lying.

Either way, the policy breaks the no-more-taxes policy, helps the rich at the expense of the poor and will not reduce emissions.

Given how much coal we’re burning to generate power could increasing EV use also increase emissions?

This tweet shows how out of touch the government is about life in the real world where farmers and trades people need bigger vehicles for their work:

The Taxpayers’ Union has launched a petition to stop the tax:

The Taxpayers’ Union is set to launch a new campaign to stop Labour’s unfair, uneconomic, and unenvironmental tax scheme on family cars and utes to fund electric vehicles and the wealthy elite for zero environmental benefit.

The campaign’s petition, at CarTax.co.nz is targeting all vehicle owners who can’t afford a Tesla, or who need a car that lasts more than a few hundred kms or larger than a Nissan Leaf.

“What makes this tax scheme so unfair is that it disproportionately impacts larger families and low-income earners for whom an electric car is a pipe dream,” says Jordan Williams, a Spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union.

“And the electric vehicle subsidies don’t even help climate change. Because transport is already under the ‘cap and trade’ Emissions Trading Scheme, any emissions saved simply appear elsewhere. It has a huge cost, but zip economic benefit.”

“The electric car rebate system is yet another example of this Government acting contrary to the advice of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Their advice is for the politicians not to intervene in parts of the economy covered by an ETS because of the ‘waterbed effect’. This environmental virtue-signalling will add a few grand to the price of a large family car. This campaign is to call out the cost and the lack of environmental benefit.”

“The Government will be taxing utes and people-movers in Otara so National Party voters in St Heliers can get eight grand off the base model Tesla. And for not a single tonne saved in New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions. Socially, environmentally, and financially, it is wrong.”

New Zealanders are encouraged to sign the petition to stop the Car Tax at www.CarTax.co.nz


There’s a better recipe

10/06/2021

More centralised control, more regulation, more bureaucracy; higher costs, fewer farm animals; less export income, more poverty . . .

That’s the Climate Commission’s recipe.

The New Zealand Initiative has a better one:

The New Zealand Initiative calls on the Government to reject the Climate Change Commission’s recommendations and instead rely on the Emissions Trading Scheme’s cap to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

“The Climate Change Commission has based its plan on the idea that the ETS does not cap emissions,” says Dr Oliver Hartwich, Executive Director of the New Zealand Initiative. “But an ETS cap is the government’s policy and, since June of last year, it is the law.”

“Only this week, the Climate Change Minister said the government’s reforms of the ETS “put a sinking lid on emissions”,” says Dr Hartwich.

“The Commission’s plan cannot reduce emissions by a single gram since the ETS already caps emissions. You can only cap emissions once,” says Dr Hartwich.

“The Commission’s plan is based on a misunderstanding. The government should ignore the Commission’s advice.”

“The Commission says stockpiled carbon units mean the ETS cap is not fixed. But the government takes that stockpile into account when it decides how many units to auction each year. If the stockpile were not there, the government would auction more units.” The Commission’s claim is wrong.[1]

The New Zealand Initiative supports the commitment to lower emissions and the emissions targets agreed by Parliament.

“Because we support the net-zero goal, we oppose the Climate Change Commission’s plan,” says Matt Burgess, Senior Economist at the New Zealand Initiative.

“The first job of any emissions policy is to reduce emissions. Today’s plan from the Climate Change Commission does not do that.”

“The Climate Change Commission has now made two botched attempts to explain how its plan cuts emissions under an ETS,” says Mr Burgess.

“Households and businesses will unnecessarily pay many times too much to cut emissions because the Climate Change Commission refuses to reduce emissions at least cost,” says Mr Burgess.

“That puts our emissions targets at risk.”

“We can manage afforestation risks without abandoning a least cost approach,” says Mr Burgess.

“Rod Carr had one job, to deliver a credible path to our emissions targets. He has failed in that duty.”

[1] The Ministry for the Environment states auction volumes are set taking into account stockpiled units (April 2021): https://environment.govt.nz/what-government-is-doing/key-initiatives/ets/nz-ets-market/setting-unit-limits-in-the-nz-ets/

The Taxpayers’ Union  says the commission has doubled down on the most egregious and costly aspects of the plan,:

The Climate Change Commission has thrown a bone to a few sectors while doubling down on the most egregious and costly aspects of the plan,” says New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams in response to the release of the Commission’s final report.

The following quotes are attributable to Mr Williams:

High-cost approach: “The Commission doubles down on its decision to avoid a ‘least cost’ approach. In other words, the plan knowingly does far more damage to our economic welfare than is necessary to achieve our emissions targets.”

Obsession with ‘gross’, not ‘net’ emissions: “The Commission barely bothers to justify why it’s focused on slashing ‘gross’ emissions, and not ‘net’ emissions. Slashing gross emissions means radical and costly regulation of local sectors. Meanwhile, affordable ways to reduce net emissions, such as offshore tree-planting, are ruled out.”

Ignores the ETS: “The Commission’s own fine print once again concedes that we are already on track to meet our net zero emissions target using the Emissions Trading Scheme. This should be in the headline of every news story about the plan. If the Commissioners were worried the accuracy of the forecasts, they could have laid out a plan to strengthen the ETS. But instead they’ve used their obsession with ‘gross’ emissions to ignore these forecasts and push new regulations that won’t even reduce emissions due to the way the ETS works.”

If the Commission admits we are on track to meet the zero emissions target with the ETS why does it want to impose such high economic and social costs on us for no environmental gain?

Politicians empowered: “The Commission’s report has been welcomed by the Prime Minister and James Shaw, and it’s not hard to see why. This report urges politicians to be ‘as ambitious as possible in each sector’, and James Shaw is saying that all Ministers will have to think of themselves as Climate Change Ministers. This opens the floodgates for radical interventions at every level of our economy and lifestyles.”

Politicisation by the Commission: “The Commission was set up to ‘take the politics out of climate change mitigation’ but at every turn Rod Carr and his officials have done the opposite. He’s taken it on himself to outline what he has acknowledged are the most radical reforms of the New Zealand economy since the ’80s. Such radical plans deserve real scrutiny, but he’s even politicised that. In today’s lock-up briefings, media and independent analysts were given less than an hour to absorb a 400-page document, and while favoured media were invited, opponents of his draft plan were excluded. That’s outrageous.”

The reforms of the 80s were tough but made the country stronger.

The Commission is prescribing far stronger medicine and it will do little or nothing to treat the environment while imposing unnecessary economic and social pain.


Trampling democracy

22/02/2021

Fast forward to a future political cycle when National leads a government with Act’s support.

Neither party campaigned on radical changes to local government legislation but the government decides to make them under urgency.

It introduces a Bill that reinstates the right for residents to petition a council for a referendum on Maori wards and it goes further.

It adds a clause to allow people who own more than one property, a vote for every property whether or not they are in the same local authority area.

It then cuts the Select Committee process form its usual six months to six days and the time to lodge submissions from 20 days to just one.

Adding anti-democratic insult to authoritarian injury it advises groups it knows will support the move six days notice to prepare submissions for the Select Committee and alerts those it knows will oppose the Bill just one day before submissions are due.

Imagine the uproar that would ensue.

The Minister responsible would be pilloried by the media which would also give wide coverage to anyone who took issue with the Bill and the process.

Why then has there been hardly a ripple to the way Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is doing exactly this:

The Government’s parliamentary process on its Bill to allow Councils to have separate Māori Wards has been a sham, National’s Local Government spokesperson and Electoral Reform spokesperson Christopher Luxon and Dr Nick Smith say.

“Electoral law is important as it determines how we are governed, yet the Government is running a sham process and giving supporters an unfair advantage through the short Select Committee process,” Dr Smith says.

“Labour cut the normal Select Committee process from six months to six days and the time for submissions to be lodged from the normal 20 days to just one day,” Mr Luxon says.

“What’s more appalling is that Councils supporting the Bill were told on Friday February 5 of the Bill’s timeline, that the Select Committee process would be exceptionally short and to prepare to lodge their submissions by February 11.

“Giving those who support the Bill six days’ notice and those opposed just one day would be called insider trading in the business world.”

“To have read the submission on the Bill in the timetable set by the Government, I would have had to read three submissions every minute with no sleep for three days,” Dr Smith says.

“Further, the Labour Chair told the Committee there was insufficient time to consider any amendments to the Bill, raising the question as to why the Government bothered with a Select Committee.”

“Labour is making a mockery of Parliament with this Bill. New Zealanders deserve a better process on the laws that determine how we are governed,” Mr Luxon says. 

The Taxpayers’ Union says the process has been so badly screwed the Bill should be referred back to the Select Committee:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is condemning Local Government Minister Nanaia Muhata’s decision to give local councils supporting her Māori wards legislation advance notice of the short submission process.

This decision was revealed by National MP Dr Nick Smith during Question Time this week.

Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “The Minister gave her allies a five-day head start to prepare submissions on the Bill to entrench Maori wards. Meanwhile, members of the general public were given just one day’s notice to prepare for the disgracefully short two-day submission window.”

“The Minister knew perfectly well what she was doing. The decision to warn her mates before blindsiding the general public can only be read as a cynical attempt to manipulate the consultation process and limit the contributions of New Zealanders opposed to the Bill.”

“The Taxpayers’ Union has 60,000 subscribed supporters, thousands of whom would have likely produced personalised submissions on the legislation, had they been given the time. Instead, these voices were effectively silenced while the Bill’s allies were able to spend six days writing screeds for the select committee.”

“If a National Government did a favour like this for corporate special interests, Labour would rightly be up in arms.”

“This is a complete betrayal of the promise of open and transparent government. It shows a complete disrespect for not just the public, but Parliament as an institution. It undermines trust in the Select Committee process and justifies the Speaker stepping in so that public submissions are reopened.”

Local body elections are nearly two years away. There is plenty of time to go through the proper process of consultation.

That her government has a majority is even more reason to follow correct processes.

By using urgency, truncating the submission process and giving her allies nearly a week more to prepare than the Bill’s opponents, the Minister is trampling all over democracy and opening herself, and her government, up to accusations of acting like a dictatorship.

 


Separate wards not needed

05/02/2021

The government’s move to rush through legislation cancelling the right to a referendum on the establishment of Maori wards on local councils is based on a big lie:

The Government is planning to rush through Parliament under urgency retrospective legislation that will cancel nine local referendums on whether or not to establish a Maori Ward in nine local authorities. This will disenfranchise several hundred thousand New Zealanders.

They effectively argue that it is vital to have Maori wards, because without them, racist New Zealanders will not vote for Maori and they will be under-represented in local Government. Nanaia Mahuta said that “Increasing Māori representation is essential to ensuring equity in representation”. This implies that there is a huge under-representation. . .

If you click on the link above you’ll get to Kiwiblog where a graph shows a positive trend with the proportion of local government elected officials who are Maori tripling from 4.2% in 2004  to 13.5% now .

That is only fractionally less than the percentage of Maori in the population.

These people will have stood for a variety of reasons and on a variety of platforms. People will have voted for them for a variety of reasons, which might include their ethnicity.

Why they stood, on which platforms and why people voted for them is irrelevant. What matters is that they were free to stand, did so and succeeded without the assistance of government patronage.

Why then is the government rushing through legislation to cancel nine local referendums on whether or not to establish a Maori Ward in nine local authorities, disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of residents in the process?

The Taxpayers’ Union has the answer to that question:

The Taxpayers’ Union has launched a nationwide petition against Labour’s plan to entrench Māori wards for local councils.

Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “Nanaia Mahuta’s legislation has nothing to do with equity or justice. It is quite simply an attempt to dominate local politics, guaranteeing more councils will be controlled by Labour-aligned councillors. These councillors will consistently vote for higher rates to fund the pet projects that Labour supports.”
 
“It has been a long tradition that electors can vote on, and veto, fundamental changes to local voting systems. For example, voters get to approve any change from an FPP voting system to an STV one. Labour now plans to disenfranchise voters, overturning convention in order to privilege its local candidates and allies.”
 
“Labour knows perfectly well that new Māori ward candidates will disproportionately come from the political Left. That’s already true for Māori electorate seats and in existing Māori wards and statutory boards.”
 
“In short, the Government is ramming a law change through Parliament under urgency to cancel referenda because they think people will vote the wrong way. It’s a disgraceful hijacking of local democracy that we must oppose with all our strength. We’re calling on ratepayers across the country to add their names to the cause.”

If you oppose the government’s plan to hijack local democracy by ramming a law change through Parliament under urgency to cancel referenda because they think people will vote the wrong way you can sign the petition here.


Is freedom of speech under threat in New Zealand?

12/09/2020

Don Brash was invited to speak at Victoria University by the Shalom Students Association.

In an email from the Freee Speech Colation Jordan Williams says:

Last night Don Brash gave his speech to a handful of people at Victoria University.  I say a handful because the University limited those who could be in the room to just ten!

Other events are the University are fine with much larger numbers.  But for some reason COVID is much more a concern when it is Don Brash, or when his speech is about free speech…

The Free Speech Coalition thought it deserved a wider audience.

Here it is:

IS FREEDOM OF SPEECH UNDER THREAT IN NEW ZEALAND?

On the face of it, that’s a silly question.  In New Zealand, freedom of speech is enshrined as one of our fundamental rights in the Bill of Rights Act of 1990.  Section 14 of that law, headed “Freedom of expression”, notes that “everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”

That sounds pretty unambiguous.  But as you probably know that piece of law is qualified by another, namely Section 61 of the Human Rights Act of 1993, which states:

“It shall be unlawful for any person –

    • to publish or distribute written matter which is threatening, abusive, or insulting, or to broadcast by means of radio or television or other electronic communication words which are threatening, abusive, or insulting; or
    • to use in any public place…, or within the hearing of persons in any such public place, or at any meeting to which the public are invited or have access, words which are threatening, abusive or insulting.”

By comparison with a great many other countries, New Zealand stacks up pretty well.

In most Muslim-majority countries, for example, there are laws which make it a criminal offence to speak ill of Islam, or to make an attempt to convert people from Islam.   Laws against blasphemy – speaking ill of Islam – can get you killed in Pakistan.   Even suggesting that Muslims are free to vote for a non-Muslim as Governor of Jakarta can get you jailed in Indonesia, as the former Governor of Jakarta discovered to his cost.

A couple of years ago, a Turkish writer who had been invited to give three lectures in supposedly modern Malaysia was detained and forced by the religious affairs authority in that country to abandon his third lecture.  His crime: arguing that Islam should never use coercion either to win converts or to keep those who are already Muslim in order.

Nor is it only Muslim-majority countries which seek to suppress free speech in the name of religion.  Since 2013, insulting the feelings of religious believers has been a criminal offence in Russia.

In many countries, anti-defamation laws are used to control political opponents.

Thailand, for example, prohibits even the slightest criticism of its king, who is believed to be semi-divine.  Anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” can be imprisoned for up to 15 years.  The government which seized power in 2014 has charged scores of people with lese-majeste, and a great many more for violating an order forbidding public discussion of a proposed referendum. 

Even in ultra-modern Singapore, government officials have sued and bankrupted critics for statements that politicians in many other places would have disputed, laughed off or simply ignored.

In the United States, the first amendment to the constitution appears to provide a strong guarantee of freedom of speech.

But in recent times we’ve seen increasingly aggressive attempts to shut down free speech, perhaps especially at US universities. 

In early 2014, Brandeis University, one of America’s leading universities, revoked its invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree at its commencement ceremony.  Protestors had accused her – a strong advocate for the rights of women and children, especially in the Middle East – of being “Islamophobic”.

Three years later, in 2017, there was the celebrated case when Charles Murray was unable to speak at Middlebury College, with the female host of his lecture suffering injury as she tried to extract him from the melee of rowdy students.  And Charles Murray’s offence?  Though he is an anti-Trump Republican, and the author of such notable works as Human Accomplishment and Coming Apart, he is still blamed for what is seen as an unforgivable sin, namely suggesting in a book he co-wrote with Richard Herrnstein more than 20 years ago that some races might be slightly brighter, on average, than other races.

The same year, Berkeley’s KPFA Radio cancelled a planned interview with Richard Dawkins.  The interview had been planned to discuss Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene, which had been named the most influential science book of all time by the Royal Society a week earlier.  The interview was cancelled because of Dawkins’ alleged attacks on Islam – which Dawkins strenuously denied.

And the intolerance has spread beyond the universities.  There was, for example, strong opposition from some members of the orchestra when conservative commentator Dennis Prager was invited to conduct the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra.  Prager was on record as favouring the adoption of a child to a married man and a woman, in preference to a single person or to a same-sex couple; and as noting that, if there is no God, ethics are subjective.  Happily, the orchestra held fast, and Prager conducted the orchestra.

Even more happily, in the last few years there has been a strong push-back against these attacks on free speech.  The University of Chicago has issued a firm statement, since adopted or endorsed by more than 30 other colleges and universities, including Princeton, Johns Hopkins and Purdue, which states that its role is not “to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive”.  

A letter sent to the incoming class went further: “we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings’, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’”.

Well, what of New Zealand?  The debate about what should be allowed has been well and truly joined in the last few years.

In 2016, there were two speeches which triggered complaints to the Human Rights Commission.

One was by Muslim cleric Shaykh Mohammad Anwar Sahib, at the time the secretary of the Ulama Council of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.  In his speech, he said that “Jews are using everybody because their protocol is to rule the entire world.”  He went on to say that “Jews are the enemy of the Muslim community”, and made offensive remarks about women.  Then Ethnic Communities Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga responded quickly, reminding everybody that hate speech is prohibited in New Zealand under Section 61 of the Human Rights Act.

The second speech was by self-proclaimed Bishop Brian Tamaki.  Quoting the Book of Leviticus, he stated that the Bible made it clear that gays, sinners and murderers were responsible for the recent earthquakes.

Perhaps it was these speeches, perhaps it was recent developments at US universities, or perhaps it was the reaction to the suggestion that there should be a club for “Europeans” at Auckland University, but something provoked Professor Paul Moon, History professor at AUT, to launch his petition in defence of free speech early the following year.

It was a relatively short petition, but made some essential points:

“Freedom of speech underpins our way of life in New Zealand as a liberal democracy.  It enables religious observance, individual development, societal change, science, reason and progress in all spheres of life.  In particular, the free exchange of ideas is a cornerstone of academe…

“Individuals, not any institution or group, should make their own judgments about ideas and should express these judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas they oppose, without discrimination or intimidation.

“We must ensure that our higher learning establishments are places where intellectual rigour prevails over emotional blackmail and where academic freedom, built on free expression, is maintained and protected.  We must fight for each other’s right to express opinions, even if we do not agree with them.”

Voltaire’s famous line comes to mind: “I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”

In short order, Professor Moon got 27 well-known New Zealanders to sign the petition – New Zealanders as diverse as Tariana Turia and Don Brash!

But in some respects things have gone backwards since that time.

In April 2018, physicist and retired historian Bruce Moon was invited to give a speech by the Nelson Institute, in the Nelson public library.  He chose to speak about the “fake history” which is too often being used to reinterpret the Treaty of Waitangi.  Shortly before he was due to speak, the Nelson library cancelled the booking on spurious “health and safety” grounds.

In the middle of 2018, two so-called alt-right Canadian speakers were prevented from speaking at venues owned by Auckland Council on grounds which Auckland mayor Phil Goff argued at the time related to what they might say (though Auckland Council had had no problem in allowing Kim Dotcom, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden to use the Town Hall a year earlier).

That prompted Jan Thomas, the Vice Chancellor of Massey University, to pen an op-ed for the New Zealand Herald in July that year asserting that “the right to speak freely is a bedrock principle of democratic society.  This includes the right to hold opinions and express one’s views without fear and the ability to freely communicate one’s ideas.  History is littered with examples of tyrants who have sought to stymie this freedom of expression and, conversely, reveals the tragedy of those whose voices have been silenced under such oppression.”

But she went on to argue that “freedom of expression is one thing, hate speech is another”, endorsing Auckland Council’s decision to ban the two Canadians from speaking at a Council-owned venue.

And the following month she banned me from speaking on the Massey Palmerston North campus, ostensibly on security grounds but actually because she thought that in talking about my time as the Leader of the National Party I might chance to say something that might offend some of her staff.  It was an outrageous ban, and when her emails were released under the Official Information Act, it was quite clear that she had lied in claiming I had been banned on security grounds.  She should have resigned, or been fired.

In March last year, New Zealand saw the tragedy of 51 Muslims killed, and many more injured, by a man who clearly hated Islam with a passion and who saw it as his duty to kill as many Muslims as he could.  No sane person could condone such an atrocity and the perpetrator has rightly been sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.

But the event has prompted serious discussion about whether New Zealand needs laws prohibiting so-called hate speech, with both Attorney General David Parker and Justice Minister Andrew Little talking publicly about the need for laws to criminalise hate speech.  The Human Rights Commissioner has also called for such laws.

But it’s a hugely tricky area, and perhaps that explains why we haven’t yet seen any draft legislation which would restrict hate speech. 

What does “hate speech” actually mean?  Nobody defends the right for people to urge violence against persons or property of course.  But beyond that opinions will differ.

Should Israel Folau be allowed to point out that the Old Testament says that gays will go to hell after they die unless they repent of their homosexuality?  I would argue “yes”.

Should Muslims be allowed to argue that gays, adulterers, and those who abandon Islam should be killed, thus implicitly condoning murder?  I would argue “no”.

But those are, at least to me, relatively straightforward cases.  There are many other areas where societal attitudes are effectively shutting down discussion or debate, with mainstream media simply refusing to entertain debate in areas where views differ strongly.

For example, it is judged to be too insensitive, or too judgmental, to suggest that the children brought up by their two natural parents are likely to have a much better start in life than those brought up in single-parent families, or in families where the adult male changes at irregular intervals.

It is regarded as quite inappropriate to recommend that adoption be regarded as an alternative to either abortion or single parenthood.

It is regarded as verging on treason to question whether human-induced climate change is really the most serious challenge facing humanity, despite the contrary views of people as different as Canadian Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, and Matt Ridley, a well-known British science writer.

It is regarded as far too judgmental to suggest that some cultures are superior to, or more advanced than, others.

It is regarded as quite inappropriate to publicly question the wisdom of allowing as immigrants people who believe that adulterers should be stoned to death. 

And you dare not suggest that the Enlightenment civilization brought to New Zealand by the early British settlers was significantly more advanced than the Maori culture of the early nineteenth century, even though early nineteenth century Maori had no written language, had not yet invented the wheel, and were still practising cannibalism.

You may not even question the proposition that Maori are indigenous, even though Maori themselves talk about Maori arriving by canoe from a distant place within the last 1,000 years, vastly more recently than humans arrived in North America some 15,000 years ago, or in Australia more than 50,000 years ago.

It is regarded as racist to suggest that all New Zealanders should have equal political rights, despite that being the clear meaning of Article III of the Treaty of Waitangi and the only basis for a peaceful society in the long-term.

And the mainstream media censor any who would argue that case.  As you may know, Casey Costello and I are the two spokespeople for the Hobson’s Pledge Trust, an organisation committed to advancing equal citizenship in New Zealand.  We get almost no media coverage, despite issuing umpteen press statements, and when we do get media coverage most of it is focused on me: I can be caricatured as an elderly white male racist.  Casey can’t be: she is a young woman of Ngapuhi and Anglo-Irish ancestry, so doesn’t fit the need to describe Hobson’s Pledge as a male, white, organisation.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about the way in which affirmative action in favour of Malays had damaged most Malays, based on an article from the well-respected British weekly The Economist.  I noted the parallels with New Zealand.  I submitted the article in turn to the Sunday Star Times, the Herald on Sunday, the Otago Daily Times, and the Listener.  All declined to publish it.

Hobson’s Pledge is routinely described by our critics as “racist”, which surely is a totally Orwellian use of the word.  It is those who argue for preferential rights for some based on their race who are, of course, the real racists.

As long ago as 2017, well-known writer and former editor of the Dominion-Post Karl du Fresne noted that then Police Commissioner Mike Bush had talked to the Human Rights Commission about the possible need for a law prohibiting “hate speech”.  Mr du Fresne commented:

“A hate speech law would mark a radical and dangerous extension of existing police powers: from protecting people and property against clearly identifiable threats, such as assault and theft, to making value judgments about whether a citizen has crossed the blurry line between fair comment and something much darker.

“Such a law would be welcomed by activist minority groups which want the state to protect them from any comment they see as hurtful or oppressive.  But freedom of speech is far too precious in a democracy to be undermined by subjective judgments from police officers about what constitutes incitement to “hate” as opposed to a robust expression of legitimate opinion.”

OK, but what would I do with the speech by the Muslim cleric?  Given the long and appallingly negative effects of anti-Semitism, for me it’s a line call. But on balance I think I would allow it, as long as I am allowed to argue publicly that people who hold such misogynist and anti-Jewish views should not be allowed to become permanent residents or citizens of New Zealand.

And the speech by Brian Tamaki?  Again I would allow such speech, as long as I am free to note that the guy is a nutter, and that the Book of Leviticus also bans the eating of meat containing blood and the wearing of any garments made of two types of fibre.  No rational person takes such strictures as relevant today.

I don’t know whether I am optimistic or pessimistic about the future of free speech.  A very noisy number of New Zealanders – who unfortunately control at least the taxpayer-funded media in New Zealand, and the editorial policy of our two major newspaper chains – have a narrow view of what can be shared with the wider public.

On the other hand, when the Auckland Council banned the two Canadians from speaking in Council-owned facilities back in 2018 a very diverse range of New Zealanders – from Chris Trotter on the left to Lindsay Perigo on the right – quickly formed the Free Speech Coalition, and raised money to take the Auckland Council to court arguing that banning the Canadians was quite contrary to the Council’s obligation to Auckland citizens.

And after I was banned by the Massey Vice-Chancellor I was phoned by a former Parliamentary colleague – a member of the Alliance Party no less – who told me that while he and I differed on almost every policy issue, we were at one on the importance of free speech.

A podcast of the speech and the Q&A that followed it is here.


Just wondering

03/09/2020

Just wondering:

Why did James Shaw decide the Taranaki Green School was of sufficient merit to prompt him to issue an ultimatum?

. . .Newshub has obtained an email that went to Government ministers and the Treasury from Shaw’s office and it included a stark ultimatum.

“Minister Shaw won’t sign this briefing until the Green School in Taranaki is incorporated.”

The email said Shaw discussed the ultimatum with the Education Minister. 

“Minister Shaw has also discussed this one with Minister Hipkins.

“Sorry to be the spanner-in-the-works, but if we can get the project included, he’ll sign everything this afternoon,” the email said. . . 

Just wondering:

After all the dead rats he and his party have had to swallow in contravention of their policy in the last three years, why on earth would he make such a strong stand over  this?

Just wondering:

Who leaked the email, and why?

Just wondering:

Why did the other Ministers give in to the greenmail?

Just wondering:

What does it say about a party leader who didn’t remember his party’s policy against all state funding of private schools and what else has he forgotten about his party policy?

Just wondering:

If he’ll read this from the Villa Education Trust:

There are more reasons for dismay than immediately strike home with the Green School $11.7million debacle.

Plenty has already been said about the “greenmailing” of James Shaw over signing off on the rest of the $3 billion. The hypocrisy of the move. The passing the buck by the Minister of Finance and Minister of Education. Etc. We then had Chris Hipkins – Minister of Health, Education, State Services and Leader of the House – reverting to nonsense around Charter Schools and stating that at least the Green School kids won’t be learning in shipping containers.

The first missed point of despair is that the entire response to this spend from the perspective of other schools has been around property. One question you can always ask the Boards of dilapidated schools is how have managed their maintenance budget over the last 12 years. If they are honest you will get a range of answers. The second point is that our genuine crisis in education is student achievement and it is not highly correlated to the buildings they learn in (within reason of course). We have gone educationally insane of we think that flash buildings with close the MASSIVE U.E. gaps for Maori and Pasifika (compared to Asian and European) and reverse the decline against international measures. The NCEA results have already started to slide after 2 years under Labour. With the amount of absenteeism currently happening and the level of online engagement for many this year’s results could be a massive disaster for marginalised groups. However – educators are prepared to make a spectacle of themselves for spouting and a dab of paint.

What’s more important, flash buildings or student achievement?

The injustice our Villa Education Trust feels is around a second hidden effect. In the Learning Support Action Plan 2019-2025, Minister Hipkins acknowledged “one in five children and young people need some kind of extra support for their learning. This might be because of disability, learning difficulties, disadvantage, physical or mental health or behaviour issues” and “New Zealanders want an education system where all children and young people can take part in education and can learn and achieve, whatever their needs.”

In the Plan, Minister Hipkins goes on to say “This Government has a vision for an inclusive education system where every child feels a sense of belonging, is present, makes progress, where their wellbeing is safeguarded and promoted, where learning is a lifelong journey, and where children and young people with learning support needs get the right support at the right time.”

During 2019 we took the Minister at his word – as we are – according to all external reviews (e.g. “In summary we find and conclude that in both schools, the management and staff are actively involved in continuous development, and the delivery, of a unique programme of teaching and learning which is based on a comprehensive ‘local’ curriculum that is aligned with the New Zealand Curriculum, and which provides for the personalised needs of priority learners ‘many of whom have been failed by the current education system” Cognition Education) Hence we proposed to close our small private school and open a non-zoned, 240 student State Designated Character School, near a transport hub for a wide range of Auckland families to access. The Prime Minister had told the country she wanted more options like this and the “work was being done.”

Our school community has been exceptionally poorly treated by Ministry through a process that, so far, resulted on July 7th with Hipkins saying “no” with him blaming his officials and his officials blaming him.

So – while 25 students benefit by $11.7 million at The Green School … 240 students per year with diverse needs will miss out. To rub salt in Minister Hipkins publicly mocked our efforts in the House yesterday. Class, kindness and compassion.

This whole debacle illustrates the problem with politician’s making individual funding decisions:

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling for the abandonment of grant decision making by politicians and Cabinet committees, and a return to the tradition of these being made by officials using objective and transparent criteria.

The following can be attributed to Jordan Williams, a Spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union:

“The spectacle of politicians horse-trading individual funding decisions is something we expect to see in smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear, not a modern day New Zealand with a reputation of being corruption-free.”

“The Provincial Growth Find, and now the COVID ‘shovel ready’ fund, are normalising a process of decision making that rewards companies which are politically connected. It is a dangerous path.”

“Steven Joyce reintroduced the sort of corporate welfare largess not seen in New Zealand since the Muldoon Government. But instead of fixing the problem, the current Government has doubled down and we have now returned to politicians making funding decisions for individual projects and pet causes.”

“Enough is enough. Now we are seeing the warts and all flaws in the process, New Zealand should return to a transparent process of the politician’s job being limited to setting criteria and objectives, and leaving it to officials to make the individual grant decisions.”

There is a case for Ministers to have a role when decisions are finely balanced.

This wasn’t.

Treasury opposed the grant:

The Treasury advice to Shaw and the others ministers who signed off on hundreds of projects for infrastructure investment says the Green School does not have “full private school registration” and would be unlikely to get that until mid 2021.

“We believe it would be inappropriate to announce or provide government funding for a project that does not yet have the necessary education approvals,” the advice says.

Furthermore, it says even if it had the “necessary” approvals, “we do not recommend funding for this school”.

Treasury also objected to the project being overseen by the Provincial Development Unit saying it was not the “appropriate agency for this school”. . . 

Shaw has accepted responsibility for the debacle but whoever gave into his greenmail is just as culpable.

This isn’t just a waste of money, it’s also a poor reflection on the whole government  its processes and priorities:

The murky brinksmanship revealed in the decisions to fund the Green School suggest the $3 billion shovel ready fund is operating like a slush fund by the Government, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Grant Robertson needs to come clean about the deals being done between Ministers. How is it that one Minister could hold up shovel ready projects unless the Green School was signed off?

“It’s clear the Government doesn’t have its priorities in order. These projects are supposed to be about investing in infrastructure to create jobs and grow our economy.

“But the impression left is that the shovel ready fund is operating as yet another $3 billion slush fund with different projects carved out by Government parties for their political wins.

“No matter how hard he tries, Grant Robertson cannot wipe his hands of this decision. He is the Minister of Finance, it is his job to make sure every taxpayer dollar is spent wisely. Instead he signed off on a private school receiving millions of taxpayer dollars.

“With the scale of debt-fuelled Government spending right now, it is more important than ever that the Government demonstrates to New Zealanders that decisions are made on the basis of need and effectiveness rather than ‘wins’ for different Government parties.

“The whole episode makes a mockery of the Prime Minister’s claim there is no politics in Covid.

“The Government can’t claim ignorance, Treasury told it not to give any funding to the Green School because it didn’t have the full education approvals needed for a private school.

“Grant Robertson needs to front up and explain exactly what happened and why he’s allowing himself to be held to ransom by his own Associate Minister of Finance.”

Just wondering:

Does Grant Robertson need reminding of his own words: that every dollar the government pays out is being borrowed?

Just wondering:

What were the merits of the ‘shovel ready’ projects that were put forward for grants and missed out?

It would be difficult to believe that at least some didn’t have a much better cost-benefit ratio than this one.


No indexation = tax increase

11/08/2020

Labour’s wrong on tax – again:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the claim by Labour Party finance spokesman Grant Robertson that the National Party’s policy to index tax brackets to inflation is a “tax cut”.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “It’s dishonest to frame indexation – adjusting income tax thresholds to inflation – as a ‘tax cut’, like Mr Robertson did today.”

“Adjusting tax brackets so that people are not artificially pushed into paying higher marginal tax rates isn’t cutting tax. By definition, it’s keeping the rate of tax paid the same.”

“Mr Robertson is trying to cloud the issue so he’s not held to account for the dishonest way he, and successive Ministers of Finance, have increased tax by stealth through wage inflation. It’s a shame he is choosing to be so misleading about tax at a time many households are facing fiscal crisis.”

Adjusting tax thresholds to account for inflation is not a tax cut but failing to do so pushes people into a higher bracket  and subjects them to paying more which is in effect a tax increase.

Given Labour’s big spending plan with borrowed money is not matched by plans to reduce spending anywhere, encourage growth nor to repay the debt it will almost certainly increase some taxes.

Even if it does nothing more, by refusing to index brackets to inflation it will be increasing tax for everyone who is pushed into a higher threshold.


Reds’ policy path to poverty

29/06/2020

The Reds have announced an $8 billion tax grab:

The Green Party have unveiled a sweeping new welfare policy that would guarantee a weekly income of at least $325, paid for by a wealth tax on millionaires and two new income tax brackets on high-earners. . . 

The $325 after-tax payment would be paid to every adult not in fulltime paid work – including students, part-time workers, and the unemployed. The student allowance and Jobseekers benefit would be replaced. . . 

It would be topped up by $110 for sole parents, and the current best start payment would be expanded from $60 per child to $100 per child, and made universal for children up to three instead of two.

This guaranteed minimum income plan would cost $7.9b a year – roughly half what is spent on NZ Super, but almost twice what is spent on current working age benefits.

Paying for all this would be a wealth tax of one per cent on net wealth of over $1 million and two per cent for assets over $2 million. The party expects this would hit only the wealthiest 6 per cent of Kiwis.

This would take the form of an annual payment and would only apply to those who owned those assets outright – not someone who still had a mortgage on their million-dollar home, for example.

That looks like everyone could avoid the tax by never paying off their mortgage, but the party wouldn’t be that stupid, would it?

Any party that thinks up this sort of economic vandalism could be.

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the Green Party’s proposed wealth tax as bureaucratic economic vandalism that would hammer job creators.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Jordan Williams says, “The proposed wealth tax would mean the return of the dreaded compulsory asset valuations that made a capital gains tax so unpopular. A bureaucratic valuation scheme would incentivise people to hide their wealth, or shift it offshore. It would be a dream for tax accountants but hell for small business owners.”

“The policy also appears not to differentiate between asset types.  It would tax entrepreneurs creating jobs the same as someone sitting on an art collection. Ultimately it would cost jobs at the very time New Zealanders need entrepreneurs to create them.”

“Wealthy iwi groups sitting on often unproductive land would also be smashed under this scheme.  It’s bumper sticker type policy which is poorly thought through.”

“Any party that says you should raise taxes in the middle of a recession is divorced from reality. It is scary that all the work James Shaw has done to try and make the Greens more economically credible appears to be for nothing.”

Commenting specifically on the Green Party’s income support policy, Mr Williams says, “Under the Greens’ policy, a family of five with both parents on the dole would receive $1180 a week in taxpayer funds, assuming one of the kids is younger than three. That goes beyond generosity: it is using taxpayer funds to encourage long-term unemployment. Combined with the policies to tax job creators, this package would take a sledgehammer to New Zealand’s productivity.”

There’s no good time to increase taxes and a recession is an even worse time.

Recovery from the economic carnage wrought by the Covid-19 response requires investment, expansion and increased employment opportunities.

This policy will be a handbrake on all of those and an accelerator for benefit dependency which is a pathway to increased poverty.

This policy is typical of a party that’s more red than green and doesn’t understand that a greener country has to be well and truly in the black and you don’t there by taxing more.

New Zealanders gained a glimpse today of what a Labour Greens government would look like, and it involves a lot more taxes, National’s Finance spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith, said today. . . 

At a time when we need our successful small business people to invest and create more jobs, the Greens want to tax them more.

Rather than celebrating Kiwis doing well, the Greens seem to want to punish them.

The Greens never have the influence to get their way entirely, but they would push a Labour Greens coalition in the direction of higher taxes.

Labour have so far refused to rule out taxing people more if they win the election.

The very real fear many New Zealanders have is that this current government, which has $20 billion available for election spending, will spend whatever it takes to try to keep its poll numbers up until the 19 September election.

Then on the 20th, if they win, the smiles will drop and New Zealanders will be presented with the bill – higher taxes.

National has committed to no new taxes for Kiwis in our first term.

While the economy is going down, the Greens want to tax us more, and Labour haven’t ruled out doing the same.

That’s another very good reason to vote for a National/Act government that will focus on policies which foster the economic growth necessary to provide a pathway for progress.


Curate’s egg package

18/03/2020

The key parts of the Covid-19 coronavirus economic package are:

Extra spending of $12.1 billion for businesses, beneficiaries, pensioners and the health system.
• $8.7 billion in support for businesses and jobs.
• $2.8 billion for incomes support.
• $500 million for health.
• Wage subsidy for employers up to 12 weeks and up to $150,000 if they have suffered a 30 per cent decline in revenue compared to last year, $585 a week for full-timers, $350 a week for part-timers, available to all employers and self-employed.
• Leave and self-isolation support for eight weeks people with Covid-19, caring for people with it or people in self-isolation up to eight weeks at same rates as wage subsidy but not for those who can work from home.
• Self-isolation payments not available to people who leave NZ after March 16 and return.
• Permanent increase of $25 a week in main social welfare benefits after increases from indexation on April 1, likely to affect 350,000 low income families.
• One-off doubling of winter energy payment to $1400 for couples and $900 for singles, likely to affect 850,000 people.
• Families with children not receiving a main benefit but are in work will no longer have to satisfy the work test of 20 hours a week for sole parents or 30 hours for couples, likely to benefit about 19,000 low-income families.
• $50 million extra for GP and primary care and $20 million for videoconferencing consultations.
• $32 million for extra intensive care capacity and equipment in hospitals.
• $40 million for public health units mainly for contact tracing.
• $100 million set aside to support work deployment.
• Provisional tax threshold will lift from April 1 from $2500 to $5000 allowing an estimated 95,000 business to defer tax payments and possible waiving of interest on late payments.
• Reinstatement of depreciation deductions for commercial and industrial buildings at an estimated cost of $2.1 billion to 2024.

This is, like the curate’s egg, good in parts:

The boost in health funding, assistance for business and payment for leave for self-isolation and sickness are welcome.

However, the wage subsidies only apply to businesses with 20 or fewer staff. Businesses with more than that are still vulnerable. Jobs, and those businesses themselves are at risk.

The risks are greater because the government mandated increase to the minimum wage is till going ahead.

And what’s what’s the rationale for permanent increases in benefit payments?

There is a case for a temporary increase but if a permanent increase has nothing to do with covid-19 and should have been left for the Budget.

As Jordan Williams from the Taxpayers’ Unions says:

. . .“However, it’s disingenuous for the Government to use this crisis as an excuse to make a permanent increases in benefit rates, which are automatically ratcheted up for wages and inflation. This looks like ideological opportunism at a time when no one knows whether higher benefits will be affordable in years to come.”

“We’re open to increasing benefits for duration of the pandemic, but it’s not an excuse for locking it in. For context, the cost of the benefit hike is around $2.3 billion – almost five times as much as the boost to the health system. Every extra dollar means less for the productive sector and frontline health services.”

What would do more good – more than $2 billion for health or the increase in benefits?

Three more cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed.

So far none of the cases has been fatal and none has required prolonged hospital care.

But that may not last and equipping the health system should be the priority.

The $500m is welcome but it may only be the start of what is needed.

 

 

 


Taxpayer funded competing with taxpayers

05/03/2020

Taxpayer-funded RNZ is running an advertising campaign which doesn’t tell the whole truth:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is slamming Radio New Zealand’s use of taxpayer money for misleading advertising suggesting New Zealanders do not have to pay for its content, unlike other media organisations.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “The idea that we don’t pay for RNZ is ridiculous. Unlike other media organisations, all New Zealanders are forced to pay for RNZ.”

“Private platforms also present a much more diverse range of views and perspectives.”

“In addition to being dishonest, RNZ’s advertising is an underarm bowl to those private media organisations, many of which are kneecapped by the state subsides for RNZ and TVNZ.”

Example of RNZ online advertising:

 

We’re all paying for that premium content through our taxes whether or not we listen to it.

Galling as these advertisements are to taxpayers, they’re worse still for those with which the state broadcaster competes:

 Stuff recently campaigned on the value of journalism.

Billboards, bus backs, paid social posts – it was everywhere. RNZ drove its message so hard it even featured in a digital display in Stuff’s own lobby. Trolling maybe?

The message was right, but only in part. RNZ doesn’t run ads. RNZ doesn’t have paid subscriptions for its content.

This, though, is only because it doesn’t need to.

You already pay for its content through your taxes, so its journalism doesn’t need to be either ad-funded, like ours is, or supplemented through a paid content model like, say, the NZ Herald.

It’s simple:

    • Commercial media make money through ads and subscriptions, which they then use to pay for public interest journalism.
    • Public media are Government-funded to pay for public interest journalism.

But, like newsrooms the world over, the advertising and subscription revenues commercial media once thrived on no longer sustain the number of journalists we once could. As audiences have shifted from newspapers to websites, so have advertising dollars. But the slice of the pie left for news organisations is tiny after the giant global platforms like Google and Facebook take their share.

In short, funding journalism, especially in regional New Zealand, has become increasingly hard. The pursuit of a new, sustainable business model to support journalism is something that is common across competitors; one galvanising connection that brings us all together. . .

Plurality of journalistic voices is deemed in the public interest. RNZ is chartered to serve that public interest. It is its purpose to serve an audience, not to compete for audiences; audiences which in one way or another are needed to fund the great journalism created by many organisations and many companies across New Zealand each and every day.

Journalism and mainstream media are under threat from digital platforms and social media.

Struggling businesses don’t need the taxpayer-funded outlet which competes with them.

The unfair competition from the state-owned Landcorp has been a bone of contention for farmers but at least it hasn’t run a campaign putting down private sector competitors the way RNZ is. That it’s doing it with what isn’t the whole truth makes it worse.


Cash spray BAU

02/12/2019

What does it say about a party when a keynote speech on infrastructure offers nothing more than funding for school maintenance?

Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson have cancelled billions of dollars of infrastructure projects whilst dressing up business as usual school maintenance grants as infrastructure investment, National’s Economic Development spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Kiwis deserve the roads, transport and education infrastructure that National was delivering, not spin from a weak and wasteful government that’s failing to deliver on its promises.

“Today’s education announcement is less than it’s wasted on 300 plus government working groups and committees.   

“This Labour-led Government’s poor economic policies have slowed New Zealand down and on its watch, New Zealand’s infrastructure plans are in disarray.

“Labour inherited a strong economy with GDP growth around four per cent. Latest ANZ and ASB forecasts predict a drop to two per cent at a cost of $1.7 billion in lost revenue each year.

“At the same time this Government has wasted billions on failing policies and isn’t delivering on the things that matter to hardworking Kiwi families.

“Our economy is slowing because of Labour’s failure to deliver. A complete stall in infrastructure spend and $400 million of business as usual school repairs and maintenance just won’t cut it.”

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams describes the announcement as  a lazy attempt to buy votes, rather than better educations:

“This announcement appears more targeted at parents’ votes, than fixing run down schools, and you only need look at which schools get what to figure that out.”

“What a lazy and pathetic policy. A brand new school gets the same dollop of cash as a school with buildings from the 1950s.  No school gets more than $400,000, but none less than $50,000. Ultimately that approach means those schools which desperately need redevelopment get less.”

“Instead of asking officials which schools need what, the Labour Party has cooked up an ‘every school gets cash’ policy for the PM’s big speech. This is the sort of stuff you’d expect from an unorganised opposition, not a Party in Government.”

It is because Labour was disorganised in opposition it delivers this sort of stuff in government.

“If this is indicative of Labour’s big spending plans, spraying taxpayer cash, instead of micro targeting so taxpayer money goes to where it is most needed, hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars are going to go down the drain.”

If a government that inherited a very healthy economy has to borrow to fund maintenance it has its spending priorities wrong.

Borrowing for infrastructure investment when interest rates are so low isn’t wrong per se, but if the government is borrowing to spend on infrastructure it ought to be investing in new projects not on-going maintenance.

Maintenance is business as usual (BAU), it’s shouldn’t be the recipient of a cash spray, but then spraying cash is BAU for this government.


Open and transparent?

30/09/2019

When Jacinda Ardern declared hers would be an open and transparent government this probably wasn’t what she was meaning:

Controversial Cabinet Minister Shane Jones told a forestry awards ceremony they needed to vote for him or miss out on the billions he’s handing out for provincial growth, it has been alleged.

One person present labelled Jones’ comments as an inducement to “bribery” and another thought the minister – responsible for forestry and the $3 billion provincial growth fund – was “buying votes”.

But Jones says New Zealand can expect him to remind it over the next 12 months that votes for New Zealand First are needed to ensure it continues to fulfil promises in its coalition agreement with Labour.

“When you get a retail politician like myself – a son of the north – you’ve never going to take the politics out of the politicians.” . .

There’s politics and there’s politicking and then there’s blatant vote-for-us-or-else which looks very close to bribery.

Another person who paid close attention to Jones’ speech said he was angry and shocked at the political approach.

“Some of the things he said I didn’t particularly like. [It was] he had this big pot of gold so make sure you keep voting for me. There were direct comments along those lines.”

A third person who objected to Jones’ comment said it detracted from the intent of the evening, which was to celebrate excellence in forestry.

“It should never have been a political rally, which is what he made it. He was saying ‘if you don’t vote for me, you won’t get any share of the billion dollars’. He said you’ve only got a few months of me here, so you’d better vote.

“It’s just bribery. I thought that was pretty disgusting.”

Another person present said: “It wasn’t a political forum. He didn’t do himself any good. He just made a complete idiot of himself.”

Those interviewed did not want to be named, citing the influence of Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund and concerns speaking openly could have a personal and financial impact. 

Whether it was meant as a threat or not, these people have not only interpreted what Jones said as vote-for-us-or-else, they’re scared about the consequences of speaking out.

What he said is bad enough. That he said it so openly is worse. It shows that he thinks he’s immune from any censor by both his leader and the Prime Minister that ought to follow this behavior but won’t.

Reacting to the Herald piece, Taxpayers’ Union Spokesman Jordan Williams said:

“This is truely banana republic stuff.  A Minister telling an industry sector that they need to pony up with support, or else lose taxpayer funded lavish.”

”It is shocking, and belongs in Namibia, not New Zealand.”

“Even for Shane Jones this is breathtakingly shameless.  This not only sours the reputation of the current Government, it sours the reputation of our whole political establishment.  It is pork barrel politics in its true meaning.”

“Taxpayers are relying on the Prime Minister to prevent Shane Jones dragging us down the transparency indexes.  Now is the time for her to show whether she demands western democracy standards of her Ministers, or whether her junior coalition partner wields the true power and can do what they like with public funds.”

Sadly the junior coalition partner does wield the true power and its members not only can and do do what they like with public funds, at least one is open that they’re vote-buying with them.


Are electric vehicles as green as they’re painted?

10/07/2019

Stuff asks which are the cleanest and dirtiest car brands in New Zealand?

. . .Actually, the car brand currently on sale in NZ with the lowest emissions of all is Tesla, which boasts an unbeatable CO2 output (or non-output?) of 0.0. Obviously that’s because they are fully electric, which means the only connection with CO2 these cars might have, would be from what emerges from any gas or coal-fired power stations that generate the electricity in the first place.

But, as so often in the climate change argument, this doesn’t give the whole picture. It counts only the emissions from running the car, what about the emissions in making it, in particular the battery?

A friend has recently returned from Africa where he saw a continual procession of fuel tankers making the journey from the coast to supply mines in the Congo so that cobalt and lithium can be exported to allow people in rich countries to buy electric cars to save the world.

If you take into account the emissions from the many thousands of kilometres those tankers travel and everything else involved in their manufacture and disposal when judging the CO2 output of electric and hybrid cars, would they still be as green as they’re painted?

I don’t know the answer to that question and it raises another: how can we know what is green and what is greenwash if only the emissions from running vehicles are quantified and not those from their manufacture to their eventual end?

The answer to those two questions is even more important now the government is proposing a ‘feebate’ scheme on the sale of new vehicles.

The Government’s proposal for a sweeping fuel-efficient vehicle policy is being criticised because it doesn’t apply to the majority of cars being sold.

It would only apply to newly-imported used and brand new light vehicles from 2021 onwards, and would only hit those vehicles when they are sold for the first time – taking in about only a quarter of vehicle sales.

School Strike 4 Climate NZ criticised the proposal and said all vehicle sales should be affected by fuel efficiency standards.

The “feebate” scheme wouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything, instead using money gained by putting a fee on imported high-emissions cars in order to make imported hybrids, electric cars, and other efficient vehicles cheaper with a subsidy. . .

It wouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything but who would it help and who would it hurt?

The proposed penalty on ‘gas guzzling’ vehicles is a painful, regressive tax, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “Let’s be very clear: this is a tax on Otara vehicles to subsidise Teslas in Remuera.”

“Only a few, largely high-income, motorists will benefit from this subsidy, while many more low income motorists will have to choose between a nasty penalty or delaying the purchase of a new car. And as this tax leads driver to hold on to their existing vehicles for longer, we’ll miss out on improvements to safety and environmental standards.”

Older cars are less efficient and also not as safe as newer vehicles, but what’s the environmental impact from holding on to them longer?

Would spreading the emissions from making them over a longer period compensate for the emissions from driving them?

What about utes and trucks that are used for business and transporting goods and for which there are no hybrid or electric alternatives.?

“Successive Governments have already whacked motorists hard with hikes to petrol tax. Now Julie-Anne Genter is mixing it up with scheme to ‘take from the poor, give to the rich’.”

“Just because something is shrouded in environmental branding doesn’t make it any less nasty to the poor.”

Electric and hybrid cars cost less to run than petrol or diesel ones and newer vehicles are more efficient than older ones so  people who can’t afford newer, more expensive vehicles will be paying a bigger proportion of the fuel tax.

London has emission charges and diesel vehicles, including taxis, have to use AdBlue  to their fuel. When we were there recently we noticed the air was much cleaner than it had been several years earlier.

Clean air is to be encouraged but until the total lifetime emissions, not just from driving vehicles, but from their conception to their ultimate end, are quantified, we won’t know if the policy will make a positive difference or not to global CO2 emissions or not.

The emissions picture is a very complex one to which the ‘feebate’ policy, like so many other climate change ones, provides a simple answer but we don’t have enough information to know if it’s the right one.

The push towards electric vehicles raises two other questions: does our electricity generation and transmission have the capacity for a significant increase in electric vehicles?; and what will replace fuel taxes when the uptake of hybrid and electric vehicles reduces them to the point a replacement is required?


Tax Freedom Day at last

01/06/2019

We’re nearly half way through the year and have only just got to Tax Freedom Day:

A media release from the Taxpayers’ Union says:

From today until the end of the year you are finally working for yourself, and not the taxman, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.
 
‘Tax Freedom Day’ marks the day on which New Zealanders have collectively worked enough to pay off the cost of government for the year.
 
Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “For the average New Zealander, getting to work on Monday represents the first day they’re working for themselves.”
 
“This year’s total government expenses have been forecast to suck up 41.5 percent of the economy. That means, if a taxpayer wanted pay off their share of government expenses as soon as possible this year, they would have to work sacrifice all their wages from January the 1st, until today, June 1st.
 
“Today is worth celebrating, but it’s a shame we had to wait so long to pay off the politicians’ expense card. Unfortunately, government spending increasing faster than economic growth means the continuation of the trend of a later Tax Freedom Day.”
 
“Some other groups chose to observe Tax Freedom Day earlier this year. But our chosen date – based on OECD figures – takes into account local government and spending paid for with debt, meaning it reflects the full burden of government on taxpayers.”

And on the eve of Tax Freedom Day, the government pushed through an increase to fuel taxes under urgency:

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the passage of legislation hiking the price of petrol at the pump to see that more than 50 percent of the price paid will soon be tax. Union spokesperson, Jordan Williams says:

“Clearly ‘wellbeing’ is just marketing fluff.  Petrol taxes are highly regressive – they hit the poor, those in regional New Zealand, and those who live on outer suburbs the hardest. It’s one of the cruelest forms of tax.”

“Rushing these new petrol taxes through Parliament under urgency is disgraceful. They are a total breach of the Prime Minister’s ‘no new tax’ election promise.  And Labour know it.”

“Pain at the pump underscores the fact that big-ticket Budget announcements come at a real cost, regardless of the fuzzy wellbeing language the politicians use to promote them.”

Petrol was more than $2.45 a litre when we passed through Omarama earlier this week. Tax is already too big a contributor to that.

Taking more money from everyone and adding to the cost of everything will not contribute to wellbeing.


How to lose donors

23/01/2019

Oxfam claims inequality is increasing in New Zealand  but it’s wrong

While Oxfam claims inequality is increasing and uses its latest report to push a political campaign, the official data shows the complete opposite, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers‘ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “Oxfam bases their conclusions from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2018. That report shows wealth inequality in New Zealand measured by the Gini coefficient falling from 72.3 to 70.8. Instead of using a comprehensive statistic like the Gini coefficient, Oxfam abandon any of their residual credibility and instead choose to cherry-pick two wealthy New Zealanders and highlight their improved financial position. It is a dishonest political manipulation of public debate.”

“As is clear from this campaign, Oxfam is little more than a left-wing political campaign group. In the same way that Family First and the Sensible Sentencing Trust are not allowed charitable status, it is time the same rules were applied to Oxfam and it was deregistered as a charity.”

Charities which get political risk losing donors.

A few years ago my daughter gave me a midwife for Christmas. It was an Oxfam programme that paid for midwives in a developing country.

The charity got my email and began asking for funds. I liked the idea of practical help and donated.

Then I saw a media release similar to this one that I knew was based on misinformation and stopped my donations.

Political advocacy plays an important role but charities which get into it risk confusing people about their priorities and losing support for their charitable work.


Tax cuts could cut strikes

17/01/2019

The Taxpayers’ Union has a simple way to reduce strikes:

Implementing tax relief would relieve the pressure of low take-home pay and resolve much of the current industrial action, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says “It’s understandable that junior doctors and the Wellington bus drivers feel under pressure – no Government has delivered a tax cut since the 2010 Budget. If the Government delivered tax cuts, take-home pay would increase and workers would feel welcome reprieve.”

“Tax cuts would help all workers. The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on our union allies to help back collective action for tax cuts. Acting together, the union movement could put pressure on the Government to boost pay for everyone and end the pressure of industrial action on our heath and transport sectors.”

The Government surplus is running ahead of forecasts which means it’s taking more tax than it needs.

Tax cuts would boost take home pay for workers and increase pensions which are based on after-tax income.

The government should be letting us all keep more of our own money.

It should throw out whatever suggestions the Tax Working Group has for introducing any new taxes – especially a Capital Gains Tax.

It should end wasteful spending.

And if it can’t bring itself to cut taxes, at the very least t should increase tax thresholds so modest pay rises don’t push people into higher tax brackets.

 

 


Taxpayer paying business to compete with other business

16/11/2018

An advanced Aviation Hub at Whanganui Airport is the latest beneficiary of taxpayer largesse through a donation from the Provincial Growth Fund.

The Taxpayers’ Union says the government is picking winners:

The Government should be delivering tax cuts to all businesses, not spending $48 million picking winners says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, responding to the Government’s announcement of Provincial Growth Fund spending in the region.

The Union’s Executive Director Jordan Williams says “Government should not be in the business of picking winners. Instead of spending $48 million on an array of projects in Manawatu-Whanganui, the Government should give all businesses tax relief.”

“If the business case for projects receiving funding from the Government stands up, they should be able to secure private finance. Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidise businesses that cannot stand on their own two legs. Taxing more for Shane Jones to play Father Christmas is just a provincial merry-go-round.”

It’s worse than picking winners – it’s using taxpayers’ money to fund a business that is competing with another existing one.

An international flight school started operating at Oamaru airport a few months ago.

. . .Students from ”all over” would train in single-engine Tecnam aircraft, with one plane for every five students.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said he was ”very pleased” the airline academy chose the Waitaki district ”to kick-start their operation”.

”As there’ll be a significant number of trainees and staff living and learning here, this is a win-win for everyone.”

Ten jobs would be created and up to 50 commercial pilot trainees would be in the Waitaki district over the next three years.

Council chief executive Fergus Power said each trainee would add an estimated $20,000 to Oamaru’s economy while living in the district for up to a year. . .

If a flight school can be established at Oamaru Airport without subsidies the Whanganui one shouldn’t need government assistance and it certainly shouldn’t be getting taxpayers’ money to compete with an existing business.

 

 


Value for tax $s isn’t partisan

22/10/2018

The Taxpayers’ Union is encouraging people to celebrate Labour Day by joining them:

 The Union’s Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says, “With the events of the last seven days seeing the Opposition distracted, and the Government using the opportunity to rule out tax relief for New Zealand workers, external pressure groups fighting to hold the Government to account are as important as ever.”

We are using this important day to step-up our efforts fighting for Lower Taxes, Less Waste, and More Transparency.”

Tax is by far the largest cost imposed on New Zealand workers and their families. Every dollar wasted by politicians and bureaucrats is one less for the hard working taxpayer who earned it.”

The Taxpayers’ Union relies on support by its members and subscribed supporters to fund its work. Becoming a supporter is free, with membership from as little as $5 at http://www.taxpayers.org.nz/join.

The NZTU is often described in the media as right wing it’s not, and working for lower taxes, less waste and more transparency is not politically partisan.

I don’t buy into the line that parties on the right of the political spectrum don’t care about the poor but parties on the left purport to champion them.

The poor have most to gain from lower taxes and less wasteful, more transparent governments.

Wealthy people don’t like higher taxes but they don’t have to worry about every dollar the way poor people do and every dollar taken in tax and wasted by government misspending is a dollar they need more.

The NZTU was launched when National was in power and held it to account. It is continuing to hold this government to account and that brings benefits to us all.

I joined the NZTU when it was launched and continue to support it as the only organisation that seeks to ensure better value for taxpayers’ money.


Winston’s dowry

21/06/2018

The Taxpayers’ Union has launched a policy cost-tracker Winston’s Dowry:

With Winston Peters now the Prime Minister, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is launching a new policy cost tracking project – to calculate the cost of Mr Peters and his Party in forming the coalition Government.

“Marriage can be expensive, but normally the guests aren’t given a bill at the end of the ceremony,” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union.

“In a political marriage, the cost of attendance can be significant. ‘Winston’s Dowry‘ calculates the total cost to taxpayers from the demands of two-time coalition divorcée, Winston Peters.“

“Our economic staff will be updating the Dowry regularly as new vanity projects, and pork-laden policies are announced.”

“So far, Winston’s Dowry includes the Provincial Growth Fund, significant increases in spending for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Ministry of Defence, a vanity project re-branding of the Ministry for Children, and a tax credit for hot horses, among other initiatives.”

“As it stands, Winston’s Dowry is already $5.1 billion – or $2960 per New Zealand household.  With Mr Peters’ now the Prime Minister the figure could grow significantly in coming weeks. Taxpayers had better hold on tight.”

Details of Winston’s Dowry are available at www.winstonsdowry.nz.


%d bloggers like this: