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.


Good law is clear law

29/06/2021

When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

Fiddling with language in this way might be alright in literature, it isn’t in law making which requires clarity, yet confusion and lack of clarity are what we’ve got with the government’s explanations on its proposed law on hate speech.

Richard Harman writes in Politik the Prime Minister is confused, or confusing:

The Prime Minister yesterday added more confusion to what was contained within the Government’s discussion document on hate speech.

It quite clearly proposes that inciting hatred or hostility against a group on the basis of its political opinion would be grounds for prosecution.  A successful conviction could result in up to three years jail or a $50,000 fine.

However, Jacinda Ardern claimed at her post Cabinet press conference yesterday that the Government had removed political opinion as grounds for prosecution. . . 

But the confusion comes right at the top of the document,  on page four, where there is a summary of the Government’s proposals which it says it has agreed to “in principle”.

“Under this proposal, more groups would be protected by the law if hatred was incited against them due to a characteristic that they have. This may include some or all of the other grounds in the Human Rights Act. These grounds are listed in section 21 of the Act, which is included in Appendix One.”

That section has a long list of grounds that could be invoked, but critically it says in Section 21 (j), “political opinion, which includes the lack of a particular political opinion or any political opinion.”

And herein lies the confusion; the Prime Minister was clearly talking about page 17 while seeming to not know about what was in the summary on page four. . .

Tova O’Brien points out the Prime Minister and Justice Minister don’t understand what they’re proposing:

Jacinda Ardern is wrong about her own hate speech law. Completely and utterly wrong.

Not only is the Prime Minister wrong about the basic facts of the proposal, she was wrong to shut down debate on hate speech on The AM Show this morning with her glib, inaccurate dismissals. 

The Prime Minister and Ministers develop policy and set policy directions for law. If they don’t understand the policy direction and intent of the law, how can they expect the judiciary to interpret and apply the law? 

On Newshub Nation we questioned the Justice Minister about the proposed changes and tested his policy direction and intent with examples. He conceded that, for example, if millennials expressed hatred towards boomers they could potentially be found liable for hate speech. 

Ardern is now contesting that, saying the law will only apply if it ‘incites violence’. That is wrong, the proposed threshold is as low as ‘insulting’ someone. 

The Prime Minister was dismissive about the interview and said we were trivialising the need for the law change – the terror attacks on March 15. 

It is insulting and irresponsible to pit journalists – or anyone who questions or debates the legislation – as somehow being in opposition to the needs of the victims of March 15th. 

If Jacinda Ardern wants to be the only voice who can have a say on the proposed hate speech changes – let’s fact check some of what she said on The AM Show this morning and you can decide whether she should have the only and ultimate say.  . . 

If the Prime Minister doesn’t understand the law how are the rest of us supposed to?

The more that our elected lawmakers talk about the proposed ‘hate speech’ laws, the more concerned New Zealanders should become, according to the Free Speech Union.

“Over the weekend the Minister of Justice, Kris Faafoi, couldn’t clearly say that millennials wouldn’t be up for possibly three years in jail if they wrote something that spoke ill of boomers as blame for not being able to afford a house,” said Dr David Cumin, a Spokesman for the Free Speech Union.

“This morning the Prime Minister told the AM Show the proposed law was to ‘clarify’ the existing legislation, was to stop incitement to violence against groups, and political opinion would not be included as a protected category.”

“The PM’s comments do not match the proposals issued by her Government. If the proposed law change is just about stopping incitement to violence, why is the wording not so clear?”

“And why would our PM allow incitement to violence against people with a certain political opinion? Surely, when the threshold of inciting violence is breached, whoever is the target should be protected. Inciting violence towards anyone is already criminal, and rightly so.”

“Something doesn’t add up. Either the politicians don’t understand what they are doing, or they are misleading Kiwis.”

The Free Speech Union is calling on New Zealanders to join its campaign against the proposed ‘hate speech’ laws at www.fsu.nz/support 

Why, when the law against blasphemy has been repealed, would the government want to introduce a new and confusing law criminalising people who criticise religion.

As the Observer editorial says:

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and a cornerstone of democracy, which cannot flourish unless citizens can articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship or sanction. . . .

Good law is clear law. The proposed hate speech legislation is neither good nor clear; in threatening free speech it threatens to undermine democracy and neither the PM nor Justice Minister even understand what they’re proposing.


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.


Don’t change law, enforce it

27/05/2021

Neil Miller Taxpayers’ Union analyst says electoral laws should be enforced, not changed:

Faced with a steadily growing number of electoral finance investigations by the Serious Fraud Office, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stared kindly into the camera and intoned, “we should be looking at the way our regime works. Clearly, it’s not currently, so let’s do something about that.”

The Taxpayers’ Union could not agree more that we should “do something about that.” However, the “something” is not to change the rules again or argue they are unclear (which they are not). The real “something” is to actually enforce the law. These prosecutions are proof that the regime is finally starting to work.

It is a terrible look for the Prime Minister to suggest that the electoral finance law needs to be changed so soon after her party has been charged. National was charged – the law was fine. New Zealand First was charged – the law was fine. Labour is charged and their ally the Māori Party is under investigation – the law is not working and needs to be changed. That is Banana Republic behaviour.

The law that worked for other parties now doesn’t work for Labour and its ally? Banana Republic behaviour indeed.

Of course, all parties are presumed innocent until found guilty of course, and all have pleaded innocence in relation to the charges.

Prime Minister, the problem is not the regime or the system – it is how politicians try to constantly push the boundaries of the system. They do it because it often works, there are rarely any consequences of note, and, if there are, they come long after the election affected by the activity in question. By the time any judgment is made most voters, if they were even aware of it, will have forgotten about the issue.

National and Labour are well established parties with teams constantly working on the minutiae of election finances. There are no excuses. The Māori Party is alleged to have missed deadlines for declarations which seems to be a cut and dried issue. Either they did, or they did not. There is no room for interpretation.

There is no hope of taxpayers ever seeing a cent paid back from New Zealand First – sorry, the completely separate New Zealand First Foundation – now that the organisation is essentially moribund. If Winston Peters wants to come back, he will likely disband New Zealand First (and its debts), then create the First New Zealand Party with Rt Hon Winston Peters as the leader.

Advance New Zealand’s Billy TK can plausibly plead ignorance – there is plenty of evidence of that in his public comments. His co-leader, Jami-Lee Ross, much less so. In fact, what Labour is being charged with (hiding the identity of donors and the size of the donations) is – allegedly – known in Wellington as “the JLR shuffle”.

We do need to do something and that is to support the Serious Fraud Office finally enforcing the existing laws. Parliament has not done it, the Police have shown no interest in doing it, and the Electoral Commission cannot enforce them.

All power to the Serious Fraud Office.

If anything needs changes it’s to give the Electoral Commission the power, and any necessary funding, to police the law and the ability to deal with transgressions during the pre-election period before voting starts.


Stop tax increases by stealth

09/04/2021

National is seeking to stop tax increases by stealth:

National is committed to letting Kiwis keep more of what they earn and has proposed new legislation that will end tax hikes by stealth, Tauranga MP Simon Bridges says.

Mr Bridges’ Income Tax (Adjustment of Taxable Income Ranges) Amendment Bill, drawn from the Member’s Ballot today, will require tax thresholds to be adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living. This will mean that within a year, after every election, Treasury will advise the Government on how much the thresholds should be adjusted for inflation.

“This will stop New Zealanders moving into higher tax brackets even when their income isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of living, putting an end to inflation being an annual tax increase by stealth.

“New Zealanders will be able to keep more of what they earn, helping them stay on top of rising costs for necessities like petrol, rent and electricity.

“The Tax Working Group advised the Government that bracket creep could lead to as much as $1.7 billion in stealth tax increases in a given year. The Government is taking more than it needs, only to waste billions on bad spending.

If passed into law, this change will make a real difference, Mr Bridges says.

“It will mean Kiwis can keep more their own money in their own bank accounts,” Mr Bridges says.

“This law change shows how committed National is to helping New Zealanders get ahead.

“There is widespread agreement that bracket creep is a hidden tax increase on hard working New Zealanders, and I urge Finance Minister Grant Robertson to stop taxing Kiwis by stealth and wholeheartedly support this law change through all stages.”

The Taxpayers’ Union applauds the Bill:

. . . Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “From a taxpayer perspective, this is one of the most important private members’ bills we’ll see in our lifetime. For decades successive governments have exploited inflation to sneakily increase the average tax rates levied on New Zealanders. It’s a stealthy, dishonest tax hike that makes a liar of any politician who promises ‘no new taxes’.”

The Taxpayers’ Union has campaigned against bracket creep since 2016. In a submission to the Tax Working Group, the Union highlighted bracket creep as the ‘under-arm bowling of our tax system’, explaining: Inflation sees taxpayers’ nominal incomes, but not real incomes, increase. Because income tax thresholds are fixed, taxpayers face a higher proportion of their income lost to income tax, without any corresponding increase to their real income.

“Take our 30 percent income tax rate. When it was introduced in 2010 for income over $70,000, that was the equivalent of $83,000 in today’s money. That meant only high earners were hit. But today, $70,000 is an unremarkable salary. It’s atrocious that middle-income New Zealanders are forced to give up 30 percent of any pay rise to the taxman.”

“Labour has no good reason to block this bill. They’ve already rushed through unannounced taxes on housing, so they don’t need extra revenue. In fact, under Bridges’s bill, the Minister of Finance could still veto bracket adjustments on a case by case basis. Of course, he’d have to explain himself to New Zealanders, but he shouldn’t be afraid of accountability.”

Having no good reason to block the bill might not be enough to stop Labour doing that.

But if it is serious about its quest for wellbeing and the need for kindness, it will do the right thing and back this bill to stop the stealthy tax increases by adjusting thresholds in line with inflation.


Discrimination doesn’t solve discrimination

02/02/2021

The government has major problems to address.

Among them are dealing with Covid-19, including issues with border protocols, shortcomings in MIQ and lack of certainty around when and if we’ll get vaccines; the housing crisis; and increasing numbers of people in poverty.

Is it an admission it has no answers to these problems that instead of focusing on these, it is going to prioritise a law change to take away the right for people to petition against Maori wards on local councils?

The government is to introduce legislation to uphold council decisions to establish Māori wards, said Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta who made the announcement in New Plymouth today.  . .

Mahuta said the rules needed to change.

“The process of establishing a ward should be the same for both Māori and general wards. . . “

Maori and general wards are very different – the latter apply to all people in the area, the former doesn’t.

If that difference isn’t a strong enough argument against the change and the issue is that general and Maori wards are treated differently a better solution would be to allow petitions over changes to all wards.

Discrimination isn’t solved by more discrimination, although a lack of Maori wards isn’t discrimination when Maori have the same rights as other New Zealanders to stand in local body elections.

If the issue is that in spite of this there are too few Maori on councils, the solution isn’t special wards, it’s addressing whatever stops more standing for councils in existing wards.

There is no single Maori view that will be given a voice by separate wards but this law change will give some Maori more control over councils with less accountability than general wards provide.

That is another good reason to support the Taxpayer’s Union’s call for the right to petition for recall elections:

Stronger accountability tools for local government will be needed if the Government succeeds in entrenching Māori wards, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “As more councils introduce Māori wards, a significant proportion of our local representatives will be accountable to just one segment of local of voters. This loss of accountability needs to be offset with new accountability tools.”

“An obvious example is recall elections: when a councillor breaks a promise or brings disgrace to their authority, voters shouldn’t have to wait until the next election to vote them out of office. Voters should be able to petition to recall a councillor. Under this model, as practiced in the UK and many parts of the United States and Canada, if the petition reaches a given threshold of signatures a recall election will be triggered for that ward.”

Last year the Taxpayers’ Union, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, and Northern Action Group jointly released a paper proposing recall elections. It is available at www.taxpayers.org.nz/recall_paper

Disfunction in several councils in recent years provide good arguments for the ability to petition for recall elections. Losing the right to petition against Maori wards is another one.

What makes this worse is that it appears this was on Labour’s agenda before the election but wasn’t in the party’s election policies.

That wouldn’t have made a difference to the outcome but it is a very bad look for a government that aspires to be open and transparent.

 


Pay it back petition – UPDATED

11/12/2020

The Taxpayer’s Union has launched a petition to recoup the public funds used to pay for Trevor Mallard’s expensive misspeaking:

A written Parliamentary question has confirmed the Taxpayers’ Union’s understanding that the Speaker paid a six-figure settlement to a staffer he accused of rape.

Responding to the news, Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says:

“Taxpayers should not have to cover the bill for Trevor Mallard’s careless accusations. It’s not like making defamatory allegations is part of his job description.”

“Trevor Mallard must commit to paying back the taxpayer money handed over to the accused staffer and the Labour Party’s law firm.”

The Union has launched a petition calling for the repayment at www.taxpayers.org.nz/trevor.

“The Speaker is paid a taxpayer-funded salary of $296,000, so we’re sure he can work out a payment plan with Parliamentary Services.”

“As a gesture of goodwill, if Trevor Mallard repays the money the Taxpayers’ Union will stop hassling him for spending $572,000 on a slide outside Parliament.”

Forgoing the hassling over the slide is a very magnanimous offer by the TU.

The speaker needs to have the confidence of parliament. He was unpopular in the first term and this is a very bad start to his second.

UPDATE:

National has lost confidence in him:

National has lost confidence in Speaker Trevor Mallard following revelations that more than $330,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on settling the legal dispute he created by falsely accusing a former Parliamentary employee of rape.

The Speaker has revealed to National, in answers to written parliamentary questions, that the total amount of public funds spent as a result of his media comments from May 2019 that resulted in a public apology for “distress and humiliation” was $333,641.70.

Of that, $158,000 was an ex-gratia payment to the former staffer to settle a legal claim, $171,000 was paid in fees to Dentons Kensington Swan and $4641.70 went to Crown Law for advice to the former Deputy Speaker.

“This is unacceptable behaviour from the Speaker of the House. This sheer size of this pay-out illustrates how serious the matter is,” Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“It is the Speaker’s job to set the standard of behaviour for everyone at Parliament but he has been reckless with his words, resulting in taxpayers footing a bill of more than $330,000 to clean up this mess.

“There has been no formal apology to Parliament for this, despite the National Party encouraging the Speaker to do so on the final sitting day this year.

“Because Mr Mallard has not lived up to the high standards of behaviour that he has set for Parliament, we believe he is no longer fit to hold the role of Speaker.

“The people who work at Parliament, and the taxpayers of New Zealand, deserve better.”

The written answers are here.

Labour has an outright majority so losing National’s confidence might not worry Mallard. But this behaviour ought to worry Labour.


Stick to your word

05/12/2020

The Taxpayer’s Union is calling on Grant Robertson to keep his word :

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has today launched its ‘Stick to Your Word’ campaign calling on Grant Robertson to keep his promise made six weeks ago not to touch the bright line test.

Union Campaigns Manager, Louis Houlbrooke, said: “Despite promising prior to the election not to change any taxes beyond what was in Labour’s election policy, Robertson is now asking Treasury for advice on an extension of the ‘bright-line’ test.”

“Extending the bright line test is effectively imposing a nasty capital gains tax – at a rate of up to 39% – for property owners who sell within ten years.”

“Taxing houses will not make them more affordable. What it will do is hammer people who need to cash out of property for personal reasons. It would reduce liquidity in the market, and could even incentivise politicians to drive up house prices further in order to reap tax revenue from the capital gain.”

“If the Government decides it’s okay to break its tax promises, it won’t stop at the bright line test. A Green Party-style asset tax or even a Michael Cullen-style capital gains tax could be back on the agenda. That’s why we’ve set up a tool for New Zealanders to tell Grant Robertson to keep his promises.”

The campaign advert can be viewed here .

New Zealanders are encouraged to write a postcard to Mr Robertson via the website StickToYourWord.nz

 


Rural round-up

01/11/2020

Shearers remain hopeful foreign workers will be given exceptions as clock ticks :

The shearing industry is nervously waiting to find out if it will be able to bring in overseas shearers to help this season.

The New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association had initially hoped to bring in up to 200 shearers to fill gaps in the local workforce, but with the clock ticking to get people into the country in time, that request has now been scaled back to 40 or 60.

Association president Mark Barrowcliffe said work would ramp up significantly in a month’s time. . .

Farmers need to show vulnerability :

Kane Brisco, who is in his seventh year 50:50 sharemilking at Ohangai near Hawera in South Taranaki, started his own social media page to get farmers talking.

“One of the things I’ve noticed with farmers under pressure is that they withdraw into themselves. I’ve done it myself,” he said.

“So, I think that as a farming community we need to be much more open to discussing the pressures we’re dealing with.

“We need to get better as a community at genuinely finding out how people are doing. The common answer is often ‘yeah good’, no matter how people actually feel, so we need to combat that.  . . 

NZ’s sustainable environment – Mark Chapman:

Freshwater quality and climate change mitigation are inexplicably linked to the whole country creating a sustainable environment. This job is for both urban and rural New Zealand to tackle together. What is often missed is how creating a sustainable environment is linked to businesses being profitable. This is because it is costly to achieve the outcomes that are needed and, where these outcomes reduce productivity and restrict the ability to grow or farm, the required funding becomes very scarce.

This is the conundrum facing the nation and not just rural New Zealand: how are we as a country – as we recover from Covid – going to finance the next steps to environmental sustainability?

It may well be a surprise to urban New Zealand that environmental sustainability is something growers and farmers have been committed to, intergenerationally, for decades. As a result, the rural sector has a significant head start on urban New Zealand.

Overriding these concerns is the need to feed New Zealand as well as keeping businesses profitable, to enable activities that support environmental sustainability. So, there is a balance to be reached: maintaining businesses profitability, feeding the country and making environmental enhancements. . . 

Revealed: taxpayers Cover animal welfare fines For Landcorp farmers:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is today calling on Landcorp to stop reimbursing farmers fined for animal welfare offences.

The Taxpayers’ Union requested correspondence pertaining to staff reimbursements of fines paid by Landcorp over the last three years. Landcorp provided information revealing the following:

• A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for transporting a cow that birthed a calf en route to slaughter on a moving truck. . . 

Science’s major role in our farming future – Neville Wallace:

I grew up during rapid changes in farming techniques from Blue Stone drenching of sheep for parasite control to anthelmintics, rubber rings for animal castration and tail removal. The wool boom of the late forties and fifties led to dramatic changes in farming practice such as the application of fertiliser by Tiger Moth biplanes, which could only carry a eight-hundred weight payload.

Our schooling was scientifically orientated so that we were taught horticulture by the late Rod Syme, who’s career as a horticulturist was to visit schools and demonstrate how to grow a vegetable and potato garden, and the science included how to use artificial fertiliser to increase crop growth and production. 

A leading Taranaki dairy farmer was at the forefront of developing the plastic ear tag for cattle, which ultimately led to the electronic ear tag of today. . . .

Bushfires Royal Commission doesn’t have the answers – Vic Forbes:

Experienced land and fire managers from eight community groups across Australia have jointly written to the Prime Minister urging the restoration of healthy and safe rural landscapes. The grass-roots organisations represent more than 6,000 members and 14 regional councils. They have called for an end to the ongoing loss of human life and the socioeconomic and environmental destruction caused by extreme bushfires.

Former Chief of CSIRO Bushfire Research, Phil Cheney, says that a focus on emergency response at the expense of land management has created an unstoppable monster. Expenditure on firefighting forces is ever-increasing whilst volunteers are being cynically used to deflect criticism away from failed government policies. Land management agencies no longer have primary responsibility for suppressing wildfires. Consequently they have little incentive for stewardship and fire mitigation. Cheney is a scientific advisor to Volunteer Fire Fighters Association.

Chairman of Western Australia’s Bushfire Front, Roger Underwood, points to the stark contrast in historical fire management policies and outcomes on either side of the continent.   Seventy years of data from WA show a strong inverse relationship between the area maintained by mild burning and the area subsequently damaged by high intensity fires. This relationship is especially apparent in extreme fire seasons. . . 


Debt clock launched

14/10/2020

This is frightening:

The official ‘New Zealand Government Debt Clock’ has been launched this morning to track in real time the money politicians are borrowing on taxpayers’ behalf at www.debtclock.nz.

“Based on official Treasury figures, just the speed of the debt clock is terrifying,” says Jordan Williams, a spokesman at the Taxpayers Union.  “Every day the Government is piling on another $128 million dollars.  By 2024, every kiwi household will effectively have another $112,000 on top of their mortgage.”

“One day all this money will need to be paid back – with interest.  That’s why we need to ‘stop the clock’ and force politicians to balance the government budget.”

The development of the debt clock has been funded thanks to the generous donations from members and supporters of the Taxpayers’ Union. Join or support the Taxpayers’ Union at www.taxpayers.org.nz

It’s not just the amount of debt but the poor quality spending on which too much of the money is being spent that is so concerning.


Business confidence tanks

29/09/2020

Business confidence has plummeted:

The New Zealand Herald’s  2020 Election Survey has been released with top business leaders saying New Zealand’s Covid-19 recovery is in peril – and they want a decisive role with Government in the country’s future.

The annual boardroom barometer of 165 CEOs and high-profile directors has business confidence at the lowest it’s ever been in the survey’s 19-year history.

When asked to rate their level of optimism in the New Zealand economy the CEOs surveyed collectively scored it a 1.36 out of 5.

These are bigger businesses and predominantly urban.

I doubt if farmers are any more confident given the fear and uncertainty around added costs and complexities that are being imposed on primary production.

Westpac CEO David McLean says the future has never been so uncertain, but that means that the need for crisp and clear policies and plans has never been greater.

“We need to see pathways mapped, not just for how to escape from the current Covid-19 crisis, but to take us toward a better future by addressing some of the big challenges we face beyond Covid-19, such as increasing our productivity and tackling climate change,” said McLean.

Many, like Mainfreight’s Don Braid, question Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s heavy reliance on Government bureaucrats for advice and execution and her apparent unwillingness to listen to the private sector for ideas.

“There are many willing to devote time, energy and ideas in areas that allow New Zealand to find the right environment to operate in a post-lockdown economy,” said Braid.

The New Zealand Herald’s Mood of the Boardroom 2020 Election Year survey, taken in association with BusinessNZ, provides an in-depth assessment of CEO opinion at what is the most concerning time in the survey’s long history.

“It’s heartening that a record number of CEOs took part in the 2020 survey against a background of the Covid-19 pandemic. Optimism may be at the lowest levels seen in the survey’s history, but the CEOs’ responses demonstrated their own commitment to turning the economy around,” said says Mood of the Boardroom executive editor and NZ Herald’s Head of Business Content, Fran O’Sullivan.

With the General Election just weeks away business leaders are looking for more from both Labour and National.

Deloitte CEO Thomas Pippos points to tax policy being a key issue.

“Though Labour’s proposal to increase the highest personal tax rate doesn’t impact on the majority, National has upped the ante by helicoptering in temporary tax relief across the board to stimulate economic growth. Tax therefore promises to be a very complicated and emotive topic, that will either be centre stage this election or not far from it,’’ says Pippos.

BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope said Labour’s economic policy response to Covid has underpinned the economy in a challenging time.

“However, the long-term plans are less well understood. They will need to do a hard sell. National’s plans are slightly more pro-business. But both parties need to talk about how quantitative easing enables them to maximise a reduction in borrowing costs to help grow the economy.” . . 

You can read more about the Mood From the Boardroom at the NZ Herald here.

Confidence isn’t helped by the fact that Labour hasn’t released its fiscal plan:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Labour Party to immediately release their fiscal plan, so it can be subjected to the same scrutiny as the National Party’s fiscal plan.

Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke said: “The National plan was found to have a few holes after analysis by Labour and independent economists. The Nats admitted to one $4 billion mistake but denied another. It is healthy that major spending plans are put under intense investigation before an election.”

“That is why the Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to immediately release Labour’s own fiscal plan. She has told the nation that her numbers ‘stack up’. That clearly means their plan is finished, fact checked, and ready to go. There is no need to wait for a September Treasury data release to unveil the plan – the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU) was reported a little over a week ago. All the fiscal data is there.”

“Let people like Paul Goldsmith, David Seymour, Cameron Bagrie, and your humble Taxpayers’ Union check that Labour’s numbers really do stack up. Then, taxpayers can make an informed choice about who should manage our economy in a post-COVID recession.”

It’s not just a fiscal plan that hasn’t been released, Labour keeps telling us it has a plan for recovery but has given scant details.

Uncertainty is one of the bigger drags on business confidence.

That matters because businesses that lack confidence at best don’t invest and don’t hire more staff, at worst they retrench and make staff redundant.

That so much about Covid-19 and how it will impact the country and the world is uncertain, and to a large degree uncontrollable, makes it even more important that politicians are upfront about their plans and what they can control.


This isn’t best use of borrowed money

25/09/2020

Look what the government is spending borrowed money on:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is questioning the value of the Arts Continuity Grant, a COVID-19 response fund which has so far paid out $16 million in grants to a variety of questionable short-term arts projects.

Since March, Creative NZ has offered grants of up to $50,000 for ‘a short-term arts project, or the stage of a project, that can be delivered within a changed and evolving environment as a result of COVID-19.’

Many of the descriptions of these projects are, frankly, incomprehensible. It’s hard to see how bureaucrats in Creative NZ can make an objective judgment on which projects are worthy of funding, and which aren’t.

The resulting handouts speak for themselves. Creative NZ is fighting COVID-19 by spending taxpayer money on plays about menstrual cycles, Māori ‘healing theatre’, and ‘Indigenised Hypno-soundscapes’. That’s madness and it reflects terribly on the Minister of Arts Culture and Heritage – who happens to be Jacinda Ardern.

These grants are massively unfair to taxpayers, with the benefits skewed toward politically-connected Wellington weirdos. Handouts for fringe interest groups mean less money is available for tax relief that would reward productive work. . . 

Here’s a selection of projects on which this money is being spent:

Every cent of money spent on these projects is borrowed, accruing interest (albeit rates are low) and must be repaid.

Does anyone, except perhaps the recipients, think this is the best use of borrowed money when the country is in recession and facing decades of deficits?

People who can’t get the health care they need, whose schools are in disrepair, and who care about worsening deprivation for far too many children won’t.


Decade of deficits

17/09/2020

Treasury is forecasting more than a decade of deficits:

With deficits projected out to 2033/34, there needs to be urgent action from all political parties on addressing the national debt, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. 

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager Louis Houlbrooke says “After many years of prudent fiscal management from National and Labour, it Treasury is now projecting 15 years of deficits in a row. As a result, net debt will be $31 billion higher – or $17,000 a household – in 2033/34 compared to the Budget 2020 projection. The Government needs to give us a credible path back to surplus rather than leaving taxpayers on the hook for a never-ending accumulation of debt.”

“The major reason for the more than a decade of deficits ahead is Treasury’s belief that our economic recovery from Covid-19 will be more anaemic than previously expected. The message is clear: our recent track-record of weak economic growth isn’t just hurting incomes and entrepreneurship; it’s going to have a serious impact on our public debt.

“The solution to the forecast decade of deficits is to cut wasteful spending, end regulatory taxes on business which stifle growth and employment, and deliver modest tax relief to households and employers to get the economy growing again.” 

It’s 12 years since Treasury last forecast a decade of deficits.

That was when a Labour-led government propped up by New Zealand First was on its last legs. It was also before the global financial crisis hit.

National came to power and in spite of the GFC and Canterbury earthquakes, returned to surplus in less than 10 years.

Who will you trust to turn the Treasury forecast round this time – the government that squandered the surplus and had the country back in deficit before Covid-19 hit, or a National-led government that understands that the quality of spending is far more important than the quantity?

Today’s Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update forecasts a longer and more painful economic crisis than earlier forecast and requires a serious growth plan to get New Zealand back on track, National Party Leader Judith Collins and Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith say.

“Our economy is forecast to have shrunk by 16 per cent in the June quarter, and we will be taking on even more debt, an extra $200 billion. Every dollar and cent of this will have to be paid back by our children and grandchildren,” Ms Collins says.

“Unemployment will be substantially worse in 2022 and 2023. Treasury predicts 100,000 more New Zealanders will lose their jobs in the next two years.

That’s more than 10,000 more than the total population of Palmerston North.

“The Minister of Finance shouldn’t try to sugar coat these figures. He has taken a rose-tinted glasses view at a dreadful picture that cannot be described as anything other than catastrophic. Any short-term improvement on the Budget forecasts is far outweighed by the worsening picture past 2021.

“The contrast between Treasury’s estimate of more than 16 per cent contraction in our economy in the June quarter compared with 7 per cent in Australia shows he should be careful about making comparisons,” Ms Collins says.

“Grant Robertson’s only plan is higher taxes, and no country has ever taxed its way out of a recession, and this a huge one,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“Treasury is forecasting that under Labour New Zealand will be in deficit every year for at least the next 15 years. Grant Robertson and his Government have no plan to get New Zealand back into surplus. Ever.

“New Zealanders have a choice for our economic recovery: more government programmes, welfare and costs for business under Labour or lower taxes, more business investment and quality infrastructure under National.

“National has a comprehensive plan to secure our border and prevent New Zealand from yo-yoing in and out of lockdown. Effective border management, coupled with common sense and pragmatism around the rules, is an important aspect to help our economy can recover.

“We will do everything we can to make it easier for businesses to hire – 90 day trials, flexible employment laws, low taxes and innovative policies like JobStart and BusinessStart.

“Our economic plan of job friendly policies and investment in quality infrastructure will grow our economy, give businesses the confidence to grow and restore household incomes for New Zealanders,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“National will release our fiscal plan soon which will carefully balance the need to inject stimulus, increase investment in core public services and restore Government debt back to prudent levels,” Ms Collins says.

We couldn’t afford the current government before Covid-19 hit, we certainly can’t afford another three years of mismanagement.

 


Shareholders should be first call

16/09/2020

The Taxpayers’ Union says the taxpayer funded lolly scramble for tourism ventures is morally wrong:

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The latest round of funding by the Government’s COVID-19 tourism rescue package demonstrates how completely arbitrary, unfair, and wasteful this corporate welfare programme is.”

“The lucky recipients include river cruise companies, spa resorts, and helicopter tour operators. While we’re sure these companies have struggled with effects of the pandemic, so have their competitors who aren’t getting handouts.”

“While 130 applicants were successful, another 170 were turned down, and many more potential applicants would have lacked the knowledge or confidence to navigate the bureaucratic grant process. When politicians give taxpayer money to select grant applicants, they distort the market, rewarding companies that devote resources to impressing bureaucrats, and making it easier for those companies to put their self-sufficient competitors out of business. That’s not just wasteful, it’s morally repugnant.”

“We’re calling on all political parties to pledge an end to ad hoc COVID handouts, and instead introduce fairer, less discriminating measures. For example, a temporary cut to GST could motivate New Zealanders to bring forward their holiday plans and spend more. Alternatively, lower excise tax on petrol could make the Kiwi road trip great again.”

A government who took seriously the knowledge that every cent it’s spending is borrowed would not be throwing money at businesses in this way.

Most businesses involved in tourism will have been, and continue to be, hard hit by the impacts of Covid-19 and our closed borders. That isn’t an excuse for giving some money that allows them to compete unfairly with others that missed out on, or didn’t apply for, grants.

What will the money do and what will the businesses do if/when it runs out and the border is still closed?

The responsibility for the viability of these companies is first and foremost that of their shareholders, not taxpayers.


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.


2020 Jonesies

15/07/2020

The Taxpayers’ Union has announced its Jonesies Awards for 2020:

The third annual Jonesie Awards were hosted at Parliament today, celebrating the best of the worst of Government waste. Watch the video at www.taxpayers.org.nz/2020_jonesies.

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Every year, we host a glamourous Oscars-style award ceremony to highlight and lament the most absurd examples of wasted taxpayer money to emerge in the last 12 months.”

“Behind the tuxedos and gilded statuettes is a serious message: politicians and bureaucrats in both local and central government happily fritter away your hard-earned money on bizarre pet projects and ill-planned schemes without fear of consequence.”

“The Jonesies serve as a shot across the bow for anyone in charge of a government chequebook: rein in the waste, or see your name up in lights at the next Jonesie Awards.”

Local government nominees

Dunedin City Council: Responding to COVID-19 with dots

Dunedin City Council responded to COVID-19 by spending $40,000 on red and blue dots for its main street. The dots were variously justified as a tool to assist social distancing, a way to attract people to the city, and as a “traffic calming” device. The Council also spent $145,000 on a new tourism slogan: “Dunedin, a pretty good plan D”.

Napier City Council: Golden handshakes for a failed CEO

After a series of headline-grabbing failures, Napier City Council gave its CEO Wayne Jack a reported $1 million payout to leave before his contract expired. Mr Jack’s final official act was to throw himself a $4,000 farewell tea party. The Mayor complained that she was not invited.

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership

When nine-term councillor Andy Foster was unexpectedly elected Mayor last year, he promptly enrolled himself in a $30,000 leadership course at Arrowtown’s Millbrook estate. However, he has refused to say what, if anything, he learned – and has since spent more money on a team facilitator to smooth over problems on his Council.

Auckland Council: Temporary cycleways for COVID-19

Auckland Council installed 17 kilometres of temporary cycleway in response to COVID-19. Like Dunedin’s dots, the initiative was intended to assist social distancing. All works had to be reversed in a matter of weeks. The total cost is estimated to be more than a million dollars.

Rotorua Lakes District Council: $743,000 for the Hemo Gorge sculpture

Rotorua’s 12-metre, 3D printed Hemo Gorge sculpture was initially planned to open in 2017 at a cost of $500,000. Three years later, it is still under construction, and costs have blown out to at least $743,000.

WINNER: Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership

Central government nominees

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks

The Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First Party Leader led the Government’s COVID-19 response by announcing a $72 million funding package for the racing industry. This package included two synthetic horse tracks. No-one has been able to establish how horse tracks relate to coronavirus.

Rt Hon Trevor Mallard: $572,000 for a Parliamentary slide

As part of his initiative to make Parliament more “family-friendly”, the Speaker of the House commissioned the construction of a playground on Parliament’s lawn. The playground, which essentially consists of a slide and some stepping stones, was budgeted at $400,000, but ultimately cost $572,000.

Hon Chris Hipkins: $87 million for unwanted internet modems

An $87 million package to give students the means to study remotely during COVID-19 lockdown resulted in thousands of unwanted modems being sent to wealthy schools. Epsom’s Auckland Grammar alone received 137 unwanted modems, and even Mike Hosking’s child was a beneficiary of the policy.

Hon Shane Jones: Three train trips for $6.2 million

The Regional Economic Development Minister re-opened the Wairoa-Napier rail line last year, predicting that up to six train services would run per week. As of last month, only three services had run in total: a cost of more than $2 million per train trip.

Hon Kelvin Davis: $10 million for AJ Hackett Bungy

In response to a tourism downturn due to COVID-19, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis singled out one of Queenstown’s most successful businesses – AJ Hackett Bungy – for a taxpayer handout. AJ Hackett received a $5.1 million grant, plus a potential $5.1 million loan, all on top of its substantial payout received under the COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme.

WINNER: Rt Hon Winston Peters for responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks

Lifetime Achievement Award

Hon Phil Twyford is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for excellence in government waste.

First elected as a list MP in 2008, Phillip Stoner Twyford was thrust into power as Minister of Housing, Urban Development, and Transport in 2017.

His most high-profile election promise was to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years, with an initial investment of $2 billion. Two years into that period, KiwiBuild has delivered just 395 houses – fewer than the number of houses blocked by protestors at Ihumātao. At the current rate, Phil Twyford’s promise will be fulfilled in 436 years.

Even with the taxpayer subsidy, these homes are too expensive or located in places people don’t want to buy. As a result, many finished homes have sat on the market for six months or more, and the Government has promised to buy back homes that do not sell.

Last year, the Prime Minister finally removed Phil Twyford from the Housing portfolio.

However, his record of waste now extends far further than KiwiBuild. As Transport Minister, Twyford blew out the cost of SkyPath – a cycleway across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge – from $67 million to $360 million, with more cost increases expected once construction actually begins.

Twyford has also increased fuel taxes by 12 cents per litre – and even more in Auckland – across three years.

This tax hike was justified on the basis of paying for light rail from Auckland Central, down Dominion Road to the airport. Last month, after two and a half years and $5 million was spent investigating the project, the light rail proposal was shelved.

Despite the main justification for fuel tax hikes being void, Twyford has no plans to reverse his increases to the tax on commuters.

In his maiden speech in Parliament, he remarked: “At the end of our times here, some of us will be remembered, but most of us will not.”

He need not worry. We are confident that taxpayers will never forget Phillip Stoner Twyford.

x


App another govt fail

02/07/2020

The government’s tracing app is another addition to the list of its Covid-19 response failures:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has slammed the Government’s controversial COVID-19 tracing app as a monumental failure on every possible measure.

Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke says: “The Government’s NZ COVID Tracer is a lacklustre yet expensive app which was late to the pandemic, and then hardly used. The Ministry of Health slowly developed it in secret, excluding the private sector which repeatedly offered to help. By the time the official app came out there were already better apps on the market which had been quickly developed by technology companies.”

Data now reveals that people who downloaded NZ COVID Tracer checked in around two times. Only 10,000 out of 800,000 Kiwi businesses signed up to the app. It was a digital diary, rather than a genuine tracing app like the ones operated by the Governments of Australia and Singapore. Both of those were offered to the Government, but it seemed obsessed with developing its own app from scratch. Government essentially reinvented the wheel, and when the wheel eventually turned up, it was wonky.”

Why reinvent the wheel when there was a locally made one that was working?

“The Government should have swallowed its pride and adopted the same approach as Wellington City Council and Dunedin City Council. They endorsed – and invested – in the Rippl tracing app, made by Wellington-based software company PaperKite. That app was released well before NZ COVID Tracer and is widely considered superior. PaperKite offered to collaborate with the Ministry of Health but was declined. Data from Rippl is stored in the Kiwi Cloud while data from NZ COVID Tracer is held in Sydney.”

Another case of government-knows best when it doesn’t. The private sector had released a superior product And using it would have saved both time and money.

“In a pandemic, the Government should have quickly adopted the best technology, no matter who developed it. In this case, the private sector was demonstrably quicker and more effective than the Ministry. NZ COVID Tracer will be remembered as an expensive failure,” says Mr Houlbrooke.

The total cost of developing NZ COVID Tracer is not yet known.

There is no doubt that New Zealand has had relatively few cases of and death from Covid-19 but each addition to the list of response failures confirms that good luck has played a big part in that, possibly a bigger part than management much of which has been less than good.


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.


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