Polity by Rob Salmond

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Polity: The Taxpayers' Union rides again!

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  • Alfie,

    How is the "Taxpayer’s Union" still a thing? Apart from being exposed as a part of the Nat's attack team in Dirty Politics, I've yet to see any sort of investigation into the group, if indeed it is a group and not just a single frontman and a couple of his shadowy mates.

    So here's a challenge to journalists. Is this group anything more than a front for team Key? Can they really claim to represent taxpayers, and if so, how widespread is their membership? Who provides their funding? And why should they ever be quoted as a MSM source when their grasp of basic mathemetics is so poor?

    There's a good investigative piece just waiting to be written.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1388 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Alfie,

    Is this group anything more than a front for team Key? Can they really claim to represent taxpayers, and if so, how widespread is their membership? Who provides their funding?

    The issue isn't so much that it's claiming to represent taxpayers. It's that major media outlets give it blind credibility by accepting the claim that it represents people, and that same media is unlikely to beat itself up and make itself look stupid by investigating its own involvement. A couple of years back, Fairfax even directly collaborated with the Taxpayers' Union to produce that council spending report (labeled as waste, blah blah). This is the scenario that opponents are stuck with.

    Beyond this, what the Taxpayers Union "is" is above board as long as you're happy to look up the Unions Register to establish that it's not actually a union, then (b) look it up in the Societies Register, view its rules and determine that it's a completely self-appointed board of a handful of people who can't be added to, removed, nor told what to do or say by the "membership". It's definitely nothing resembling an actual democratic union as defined in the Employment Relations Act.

    A better description is a fan club.... but a fan club of what? It does seem to be signing up "members", but it's difficult to figure out who or how many by looking at the financial statements, or whether these people agree with everything it's saying. $5 to join, plus a voluntary donation. Year-ending December 2014 has $13,687.89 membership subscriptions (around 2,720 joins that year?) and $191,017.42 donations.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • despud,

    my favourite bit was the "up to 56%" I have a macro in my head that automaticallly translates "up to" into "and I''m totally making this up"

    I do have a question however, around why UBI might add value. I'm tempted to support it just on the basis of the people who oppose it, and I do accept that our monetary/economic system is fundamentally broken. But....

    Taxation, as a way of paying for the services provided by the state, needs to balance compliance costs with reducing oportunities for evasion. As I understand things, this is one of the reasons we have a combination of company tax, personal tax, GST, import duties etc. So it's pretty complex, as well as disfunctional.

    There's a whole other argument about how much tax some one, or some company should pay.

    But UBI does not seem to benefit either of those two areas. So why?

    Since Nov 2015 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to despud,

    why UBI might add value

    One way of looking at it is that a UBI is a grant to pursue projects that otherwise people wouldn’t have enough time to complete because of the need to work a paying job to live (or, for the existing unemployment benefit, the need to keep on the job application and administrative hoop-jumping treadmill). So the UBI frees up productive time that is currently unavailable. Obviously this applies to arts and crafts; but less obviously it also applies to research, to ongoing education and upskilling, to business startups, to caring, and to community involvement and improvement.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1898 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari,

    Tax Payers Union, Family First et al... show the power fringe lobby groups have to promote their agenda through a under resourced media and gain public acceptance

    Is there any effective means to combat how they operate, as logic, facts and research seems to fail?

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 539 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to bob daktari,

    Is there any effective means to combat how they operate, as logic, facts and research seems to fail?

    It is a shame that a Truth-tellers Union isn't the obvious antidote.

    I find it odd that they presume to speak for all 'Taxpayers' without proving that they have a critical mass of taxpayers as their membership.
    Can we know how much tax the board and members pay?

    also interesting that one of their stated aims is reining in excessive government spending - while one of their board members " is a sales executive for the software company the SAS Institute (NZ) Ltd" - which I'm sure i've seen posts hereabouts alleging everything they touch costs more than it should

    ...and well, David Farar - can we know how much Government money goes into his coffers for services rendered - often needlessly as far as I can see - Curia sir and curiouser...

    and John Bishop - he whose conservatively maudlin maunderings has many a time brought me near to defenestrating the radio when he appears on Radio NZ's the Panel

    oh yes they are all well impartial, hah!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7896 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Johnson, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Absolutely, they are a media creation. They are a very scary lobby group that is given endless free press by the media because of connections. They are after a crazy economic fix that is not grounded in any kind of political or economic reality.

    hamilton • Since Mar 2016 • 98 posts Report Reply

  • Angela Hart,

    Jim Rose looks at UBI in narrow economic terms, selecting social aspects like the possibility people might do less paid work and ignoring most of the other social and health ramifications. He talks about American solo mothers finding jobs because benefits were cut, without considering how long they retained them or how their children were cared for while they were working.
    Isn’t it about time this sort of reporting was obsolete? It is without value (even if the claims are accurate) because it doesn’t take a wide enough view of the potential impact. Even a lay person can see that if a UBI was set at a reasonable level, there would be good consequences for mental health, general health, family violence, and likely for crime and imprisonment also. These areas cost huge amounts of money, and there would be monetary savings as well as direct benefits to human beings. I’m so fed up of the way people’s actual lives are ignored to focus on money.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to bob daktari,

    Tax Payers Union, Family First et al... show the power fringe lobby groups have to promote their agenda

    I don't mind lobby groups generally when they clearly represent people, even when I strongly disagree with them. Lobbying's an important thing when it makes sure that views of lots of people get expressed clearly and concisely. I'm an indirect member of Federated Mountain Clubs. I renew my interest in my local club every year, I can turn up to FMC AGMs and scream at people, I can be nominated for the committee and voted in, or out, and influence its direction if other members agree and if people put the work in. If I really disagree with what it's doing, I can walk away. I generally feel as if it actually represents real people who are members of it. There are lots of groups like this.

    I have less sympathy for lobbyists and lobby groups that less clearly represent actual real people, yet still push their way into the conversations and get given elevated rights to influence politics.

    Weirdly Family First is registered as a Trust, yet it claims to have 3,700 financial members. Maybe it's representing real people, but how does that actually work? The Companies Office FAQ seems to state that a Trust can't have members (only trustees).

    In contrast, the Taxpayers' Union is registered as an Incorporated Society. It accepts financial members but it's not clear if they ever expire (certainly not in the official rules), nor how many of the "members" records even know or care that it's still claiming their support. Its rules also make sure the self-appointed Board is all-powerful and its members absolutely powerless, unless the Board deigns to request that they vote on a particular issue... if ever. The only time I'll ever believe it's really representing its members is if they all come out in droves and publicly stand behind each individual statement that the TU publishes.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    the Taxpayers’ Union [...] accepts financial members
    but it’s not clear if they ever expire

    OMG it’s an association of the undead!

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1898 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Johnson, in reply to linger,

    Money changes everything, coz they get paid to do these absurd press releases, Money can buy you an electorate like epsom, money can also buy you lesser but more funner things. Money is the token of power.

    Advertising your message to hype your concerns, through not political discourse and analysis but brute money strength.

    hamilton • Since Mar 2016 • 98 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to izogi,

    In contrast, the Taxpayers’ Union is registered as an Incorporated Society.

    So in other words, it's legally a club like Rotary or Lions.

    That said, is there any legal avenue to make them tell the whole story, such as the Electoral Finance Act or what passes for it (on the grounds of political collusion), or the SFO? Or otherwise have Matt Nippert extend his probe on tax-dodges to the TPU.

    And tellingly, social lobby groups like CPAG and the Sallies haven't been asked for their views on the UBI.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5426 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Well, its annual accounts (and society rules) can be downloaded from the Companies Office at http://www.societies.govt.nz/ (latest available is currently YE Dec 2014?), but it doesn't specify specifically where the money comes from. Someone else would have to answer if there's any way that could be extracted from it.

    It is what it is, and the documentation is publicly visible to show what it is, at least to the point of making it clear that it's not transparent or clearly representative of anyone but a tiny, self-appointed handful of very specific lobbyists who control everything about it. I just wish it weren't repeatedly given attention and credit by others (esp media) as if it actually represented the masses of taxpayers it purports to when there's no clear evidence of that. It's probably too late for that, though. NZ's mediascape is so shallow that it's unlikely to go far to discredit itself by publicly criticising a source that's already been elevated so high. There's a huge incentive for journos to avoid slagging off their possible future (or current) employers, so it probably just has to be put up with.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to izogi,

    NZ’s mediascape is so shallow that it’s unlikely to go far to discredit itself by questioning a source that’s already been elevated so high. There’s a huge incentive for journos to avoid slagging off their possible future (or current) employers, so it probably just has to be put up with.

    Yep, it's a symptom of journalism struggling to remain as a profession, and the corresponding rise of the spin doctor industry. It'll likely take an outsider like Nicky Hager or Jon Stephenson or Brad Ambrose to attempt to pry open the vault of secrecy.

    Or quite possibly, we could make them look like crass bullies by punking or trolling them with some more of the Mojo Mathers thing, or into deciding some kind of 'death panel'.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5426 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    ...we could make them look like crass bullies by punking or trolling them...

    If they're really "a club like Rotary or Lions" they could fight back by holding community events like sausage sizzles. Operating one of those little trains that gives rides to kiddies would do wonders for their image, but who'd trust their kids with that lot?

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Operating one of those little trains that gives rides to kiddies would do wonders for their image, but who’d trust their kids with that lot?

    Probably the parents of Auckland Grammar or Kings College?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5426 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    I don’t think the TU is really the main problem. “Exposing” it would be of limited use because anyone who spends more than 10 minutes looking at it with a critical eye can already see what it is.

    The bigger issue is with media that simply republishes stories that are clearly written for it instead of applying any measure of independence… which is the exact situation that the TU exists to take advantage of. If the TU were “exposed” to the point of no longer being in anyone’s interests to publish, let alone fully collaborate with it in ways like Fairfax has in the past, something would come along to replace it. Eg. It might be more helpful to support better revenue models for modern media than competing with Facebook shared corporate press releases and blogs by giving away cheaply produced material in exchange for advertising.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Fear facts strikes again
    The media is complicit in spreading misinformation – great example in Stuff today re Metiria Turei getting into the spirit of things with tweets and pix at the Hunt for the Wilderpeople premiere
    see:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/78402308/green-party-coleader-metiria-tureis-wild-night-out-at-hunt-for-the-wilderpeople
    with photos of her fooling around in a truck – which Stuff extrapolates into her drinking in ‘her’ truck

    She eventually sorted out the camera, but then had some trouble getting out of her truck and onto the red carpet – which she graciously shared for everyone to see.

    coupla factual errors there – it was a ‘green’ carpet and the truck wasn’t hers it was photo op prop at the premiere – some people have no sense of humour…
    see:
    https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/entertainment/360-video-feel-like-you-were-there-premiere-hunt-wilderpeople.html

    and
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/78394828/hunt-for-the-wilderpeople-enjoys-kiwi-premiere

    The red carpet became green with the outback themed premiere for the ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ at Sylvia park.

    <edit>Hah! after I commented to stuff about this they have now changed it to read:

    She eventually sorted out the camera, but then had some trouble getting out of the promotional Toyota Hilux ute on display at the premiere and onto the red carpet - which she graciously shared for everyone to see.

    hopefully that takes some of the vitriol out of the comments section

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7896 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    The Herald reports that robberies targetting tobacco are on the increase. That's pretty predictable when you raise the price of a product so much, but guess who they asked for comment? Jordan Williams with the usual raising taxes doesn't work line.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1388 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    What is not to like about the concept of a UBI
    But Rob instead of running interference for the Labour Party how about tell us the truth
    $200 a week while affordable for the country is not enough for most people to survive on, unless you propose tops ups
    Treasury did a paper in 2010 http://igps.victoria.ac.nz/WelfareWorkingGroup/Downloads/Working%20papers/Treasury-A-Guaranteed-Minimum-Income-for-New-Zealand%20.PDF
    They used a figure of $300 a week plus $85 per child
    That unfortunately that used up the whole tax take which meant if we wanted all the other things a government supplies like education and health a lot of extra tax was needed.
    A bit similar to the figure David Farrar (liar, liar, pants on fire) came up with
    David "forgot" to factor in the considerable saving of dropping Winz
    So who is trying to BS us
    Time for you or Labour to get off your arse and give us some real figures to work with

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 576 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Hooton, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    I think this is a very good point. If the Labour "contractor" writing the blog doesn't like the numbers provided by Farrar, Williams, me in the NBR tomorrow or the Welfare Working Group paper you link to, perhaps it would be best for Labour to put some parameters around the ideas they are considering, rather than calling people liars and shills. For example, perhaps Labour could say that the UBI they are looking at would not be universal. Or that other welfare programmes would remain untouched. Or something that is a little bit more credible than the claim other people aren't allowed to try to work out what a UBI (which I support in principle) might cost.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2007 • 194 posts Report Reply

  • Angela Hart, in reply to Matthew Hooton,

    Matthew, the UBI is at the "what if "stage, there is nothing firm to consider or cost yet. Are you suggesting that political parties should not allow public discussion of significant policy possibilities?

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Matthew's goal is make a discussion about UBI started by Labour an unworkable Labour policy. Therefore, it is essential to position the worst possible and most expensive structure as Labour's choice.

    Later, National can propose its own, with a different name, to wild applause from the usual suspects.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Angela Hart, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Later, National can propose its own, with a different name

    if the good ideas were taken up and set up properly, I wouldn't have an issue with that. But National punishes poor people for being poor, so a National party version of a UBI is likely to do exactly that, and destroy all of the potential for a better community that a UBI offers.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Angela Hart,

    Are you suggesting that political parties should not allow public discussion of significant policy possibilities?

    Well, that is what National does, there is never any consultation with the public over anything, look at the flag debacle. No "do you want to change the flag?", just a token choice and lots of pushing its own agenda.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

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