Fabian seminar gets big tick

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 pm, March 18th, 2010 - 19 comments
Categories: activism, Economy, monetary policy, privatisation, tax - Tags:

Lefter writes:

I went to a fascinating discussion the other day, run by the newly resurgent NZ Fabian Society. The talk was presented by Ganesh Nana (Wellington-based economist with BERL Forecasts), Selwyn Pellett (wealthy entrepreneur), John Walley (CEO of the Manufacturers and Exporters Association) and economic commentator Rod Oram.

Pellett and Walley both stated this wasn’t a matter of left and right. I’m not sure Walley would have even bothered to make that statement a year ago (I could be wrong, but I assume it would be accepted he was of the right, back then).

All were terrific speakers, and all had something to say. Considering the political and economic span they represented, I found it notable they all pressed the same four points:

1/ New Zealand needs leadership. It doesn’t have it.

2/ NZ’s currency needs to be regulated.

3/ We need a Capital Gains Tax and;

4/ An economic crisis is coming. We can manage our way down through it, but if we ignore it, it will be more calamitous than we seem able to imagine.

Lefter  goes on to say:

One idea mooted at the presentation was overall tax reform that actually benefits the country and does not tinker with GST. I got the impression these four guys could work out a proper tax reform in a week how come the government task force did such a bad job of it?

Oh yeah, Don Brash was involved.

The Fabian Society is worth a look, by the way. I know there have been some notably bad Fabians but there have also been some notably great ones. The Fabian Society has the opposite of the Anarchist ‘direct action’ ethos. It promotes left wing thought by discussion and dissemination of knowledge. So it can lead to fascinating insights if well managed, as this inaugural event patently was. And if good speakers are presented. Once again, tick.

Chris Trotter was also at the seminar, and made some comments about it on Jim Mora’s panel with David Farrar – “an interesting seminar, a very interesting debate, and more people there than he expected”. Farrar was horrified to find that the seminar had been advertised for free on Kiwiblog, so took the ad down – he’d have left it up if it had been paid for!

The seminar will be re-run in Wellington on Sunday 28 March and in Christchurch on 18 April. I was there too; I’m a member of the Fabians and I found it the most grounded and stimulating discussion about the critically important issues facing the New Zealand economy that I have heard in years. With such a high-calibre panel, I am confident that the outcome of the on-going debate will be very positive.

All are welcome, the seminar is free, you can register for it on the Fabian website.

The Fabian Society is also running a lecture series on the 2010 Budget. The first is in Auckland on Tuesday 23rd, then in Wellington on Wednesday 24th; both with Peter Harris as main speaker, and  Selwyn Pellett commenting. Details are also on the website. Again it’s free and all welcome; come along if you’d like another view than Bill’s.

19 comments on “Fabian seminar gets big tick”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    “Oh yeah, Don Brash was involved.”
    Except Don Brash wasn’t involved in the Tax Working Group at all. Don Brash was on the 2025 taskforce set up as a result of National’s supply and confidence deal with Act.

    • BLiP 1.1

      The same taskforce which recommended the rich pay less tax, the commencement age for the pension be raised, benefit entitlements restricted, the introduction of more road tolls, and public assets be sold off? What ever happened to that?

      • Lanthanide 1.1.1

        Yeah, it was a load of crap. I just wanted to correct the error made in the article.

  2. freedom 2

    just so we all play nice, it is true, Brash was not officially in this group
    http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sacl/cagtr/twg/

    unofficially, we can only guess ;]

  3. emweb 3

    Ah, sorry, Brash not involved then. Have added note to that effect on Lefter. I do seem to remember him commenting on it as if he was involved.

  4. Jenny 4

    Hi Mike I just want to pick up on one small thing of yours.

    Your comment, “The Fabian Society has the opposite of the Anarchist ‘direct action’ ethos.” By which I supposed you meant, (in contrast to the rest of the left) this is a good thing. To me this can also be read as a criticism of the long tradition of direct political action in this country.

    If so, I believe that you are doing an injustice to all the people who support the “direct action ethos”.

    For instance, which of these following direct actions would you consider as anarchist?

    Any of them?

    All of them?

    None of them?

    The Ploughmen of Parihaka who ploughed up public roads across their stolen lands as a protest against this injustice?

    The anti Vietnam war protestors who occupied visiting US warships?

    The Maori land marchers who illegally took over both the Auckland Harbour Bridge and the Wellington Motorway in defiance of the government and the police?

    The Ngati Whatua who occupied Bastion Point?

    All the anti-apartheid protesters who invaded rugby fields, and motorways?

    The anti-nuclear protesters that barricaded Auckland and Wellington harbours against nuclear ship visits?

    The protesters against the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

    And of course the recent disabling of the Whaihopai spy base?

    For how the left views this latest piece of “direct action”.

    http://unityaotearoa.blogspot.com/2010/03/waihopai-ploughshares-trial-verdict-is.html

    So which “direct actions” that have occurred in this country Mike, do you consider to be anarchist?

    If you, like I feel most New Zealanders do, believe that none of the above “direct actions” were “anarchist” but were the only possible course, when the alternative was to do nothing but passively accept ongoing injustice, you might want to reconsider your negative view on the “direct action” ethos. Not only this, but you might want to admit that this tradition of “direct action” is part of a proud and ongoing “ethos” and very rarely if ever “anarchist”.

    Saying all this I still wouldn’t mind seeing a full report of the actual debate.

    • emweb 4.1

      No criticism of Direct Action at all Jenny, actually. But at this point, left wing direct action would most likely further alienate those who voted National last election. (Apart from those Waihopai guys go them! But hey, Waihopai has been there for ages.)
      So far the government has done little to activate against this does make fertile ground for initiatives like the Fabians.
      My own persuasion is anarchist. Has been for over 30 years. But I live and work in the real world. So I drive on the left and vote Labour, mostly, even when I hate what they’ve done. It particularly galls me that Labour was so gutless in the last term, and conducted such an awfully powerless campaign last election and the one before that, actually.
      I also heard that the capitol gains tax never happened under Labour (I don’t know how true this is) because Labour MPs were playing the property investment game themselves does Helen Clark really own 5 properties? If so, that’s shameful.
      I wish we had a real left wing party, but we don’t. We do have people (if they could be given some credence by the party) who may help make Labour become a good party again, though.
      I wish Labour would get off the grass.

      • Jenny 4.1.1

        Hi Emweb,

        I must disagree with your conclusion, “But at this point, left wing direct action would most likely further alienate those who voted National last election. (Apart from those Waihopai guys go them! But hey, Waihopai has been there for ages.)

        History shows that people who are acting left will, vote left.

        For instance workers involved in strike action become politicised, where they weren’t before, and start looking around for political answers and identifying political traditions that identify with them.

        The same thing for those involved in protest actions.

        For instance, the Unite union campaign around the minimum wage referendum, if successful will seriously undermine the legitimacy of the Key National government. Possibly even derailing the almost inevitable clear run that all commentators claim that National will have in 2011.

  5. lprent 5

    I was impressed as well. Of course they were discussing something dear to my heart (that interestingly enough Lefter did not mention in the above quotes). Exports and how to increase them.

    I’ve been working in the export sector for most of my working life. But it is pretty clear that we’re going to need something different to allow us to increase them – to allow us to pay for aging population. Doing the money go-around on the inside of the economy paying for increasing house price bubbles doesn’t do much for the generation of wealth and the resources it implies.

    Things like mining (which along with taxcuts for the rich seem to be NACTs only contribution to this debate) are pretty damn useless because there simply isn’t the employment or local engineering for NZ to add value (that is just wishful thinking of some lazy shits on the right).

  6. gingercrush 6

    Did they say why we needed a Capital Gains Tax? Or what would actually be achieved by implementing a Capital Gains Tax? Also what type of economic crisis is coming? Also I can’t help but think that if you put a dozen economists into a room. They’ll come up with bullshit.Oram has repeated the same crap for years. Ganesh Nana is a very middle-of-the-road conservative economist. John Walley repeats the same crap about how there is no help for manufacturers. Yet they continue to manufacture low-valued goods. I’m not familiar with Pellett but I have no doubt he’s also full of shit.

    • Jenny 6.1

      Hi Gingercrush,

      While I might not agree with your use of invective, I too was a bit underwhelmed by what I thought was a quite conservative line up, of speakers.

      One of the recommendations of Don Brash’s TWG was that the government should investigate a Capital Gains Tax. (Though this recommendation was rejected by the Nats.) In effect however the Fabian debate by raising the idea of a Capital Gains Tax wasn’t raising anything new, and would hardly be a big departure from current tax policy.

      I suppose, what would have been new to a lot of people, was the conclusion of the speakers that the economic crisis has not ended, but instead has hardly begun.

      If this is true, a Capital Gains Tax, would be a completely inadequate response to deal with an expected government current accounts deficit, resulting from the drop in tax take due to ongoing recession.

      In my opinion, a more apt tax response to continuing recession, would be a Financial Transaction Tax, (also known as a Robin Hood Tax). A few cents on every dollar involved in financial transactions, would hardly affect most people who barely make financial transactions, (other than personal banking). But would for the first time net all the financial speculators, foreign exchange dealers, financiers and bankers whose multi-billion financial manipulations presently escape the tax net.

      And because this is the very type of financial manipulation that has been implicated in causing the recession in the first place, as well as raising tens of millions of dollars, it would be more than just.
      What surprised me about the Fabian panel was that they all steered well clear of any discussion of an FTT. Maybe this tax option will be addressed in future debates. Though they may need to widen the panel to encompass some left thinkers.

      Here’s hoping.

  7. emweb 7

    Gingercrush, there are SO many reasons a Capital Gains Tax is a good idea. Do some research. Of go to a Fabian meeting.

  8. Wow .the Fabians have certainly Incited debate. I expected this assault from the right more than the left but its great that’s its happening.

    “Im not familiar with Pellett but I have no doubt he’s also full of shit’ .Interesting!

    Perhaps I was. My favorite saying is “we don’t know what we don’t know’ so it’s always possible I was talking rubbish. I can only say I am ready to change in a heartbeat if I learn a new and better way to solve New Zealand’s problems. In the lecture I suggested that we needed to revisit the Reserve Bank Act and stop swallowing the Neo-Liberal rubbish of the last three decades and point out what the IMF is now saying on that subject, that we need compulsory superannuation, that variable savings into a compulsory superannuation is a better way of controlling inflation than allowing foreign banks to tax our population for a problem they can and do create. That compulsory superannuation will build our capital markets to fund economic expansion, that we needed to have tighter regulations around the behavior of Global Banks (yes a robin hood / Tobin tax was mentioned), that selling off monopolistic state assets would become an additional tax on society, that no tax cuts can be afforded at the moment and GST should be left alone until we have addressed the current distortions created by Tax losses on property being deductable against PAYE and that we need a Capital Gains tax across the board. I went on to say that the efficiency of collecting tax was essentially what the Tax Working Group focused on and completely lost sight of the other function of tax law .. to signal to the population what’s good and bad for the country as a whole. I also said I have no interest in catching up with Australia I want a vision for New Zealand that makes sense to me, a proud New Zealand father and grandfather. You might get a surprise what was actually said at the seminars. I can assure you the other speakers where very good (IMHO) and encourage you all to attend the one in Wellington this coming Sunday.

  9. Wellington Seminar is March 28th, 2010 12:30 PM through 04:30 PM

    20 Customhouse Quay Spectrum Theatre Ground Floor Wellington, WGN 6011 New Zealand

  10. B 10

    Actually, the Tobin Tax concept was well canvassed and advocated at the seminar.

    • Jenny 10.1

      Hi B and Selwyn,

      I wouldn’t disagree, that “the Tobin Tax concept was well canvassed and advocated at the Fabian seminar.” However, putting that aside, in my comment, I never mentioned a Tobin Tax. The terms Financial Transactions Tax also know as a Robin Hood Tax, and Tobin Tax are not interchangeable, as they are not the same things.

      Though some people, (whether willfully or out of ignorance), often muddy the waters by referring to them as the same thing.

      As any google search will tell you, Tobin advocated a tax on currency exchanges.

      While it is true that some (if not most) foreign exchange trading is speculative, and Tobin wanted to regulate this sort of international speculation and currency manipulation. A Financial Transaction Tax on every bank transaction is a different concept altogether, raising taxation not just from those gambling on changes in the value of difference currencies, (like how John Key made his 50 mill.) but from taxation of the whole financial banking sector which currently mostly escape the tax net.

      The beauty of such a Financial Transaction Tax is the ease of which it can applied (being just a simple computer entry) and the difficulty if not the impossibility of avoidance, without detection.

  11. Jenny my focus is trading our way out of the current issues we have (Debt to GDP at 100% etc)…hence Tobin tax makes sense to me as it throws sand in cogs of the speculative FX transactions.

    Financial Transactional Tax will help stop what? Will it help rebalance the economy? That is not clear to me but I am open minded. Will it raise tax revenue…of course it will and if that’s the only goal great. My desire is to use tax law to signal right and wrong behavior (measured against broader societal goals) and to raise as much tax revenue as possible from behavior that is destructive to our Economic Sovereignty.

    Economic Sovereignty being our ability to decide our economic future independent of foreign influence, be they corporate or state.

    • Jenny 11.1

      Hi Selwyn,

      What I meant to add to my previous comment was, “It’s not as if they couldn’t afford it.”

      As you said a FTT would raise tax revenue “and if that’s its only goal great.”

      I would like to suggest that a Financial Transaction tax would also fulfil your other qualification for tax changes, which you wrote as;

      “My desire is to use tax law to signal right and wrong behavior (measured against broader societal goals) and to raise as much tax revenue as possible from behavior that is destructive to our Economic Sovereignty.

      Economic Sovereignty being our ability to decide our economic future independent of foreign influence, be they corporate or state.”

      As you are probably aware, the form of profit taking an FTT targets, does not produce any tangible products or goods, either for export or domestic use and is just an added cost. (and so could do with some trimming).

      I also think that your desire to protect our Economic Sovereignty would also be served by an FTT, because what are commonly referred to, as the big four* are all foreign owned, and at present all this untaxed money leaves our shores with no benefit to New Zealand’s economy, arguably instead, being a brake on the economy.

      *The big four are National Australia Bank, which operates BNZ in New Zealand, Commonwealth Bank, which operates ASB, Westpac, and ANZ, which operates ANZ and National banks.

      Selwyn, if you are interested in exploring this debate further here are a couple of links to background material on the banks and an FTT.

      Matt McCarten: Bad banks need (more than) slap on the wrist

      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/matt-mccarten/news/article.cfm?a_id=284&objectid=10615121

      Vaughan Gunsen: Commentary on Kevin Rudd’s public slating of Westpac.

      http://badbanksnz.blogspot.com/2009/12/its-whole-banking-system-which-is.html

      It behoves me to suggest that if the Fabian Society wanted to debate on the suitability of a FTT, that either of these two excellent commentators would be a good choice of guest to defend the case for an FTT.

      Cheers Jenny

  12. Jenny 12

    Debate on the FTT gets some debate on the right.

    At a time when the government is contemplating punishing the victims of the recession.

    The topic of a Financial Transaction Tax is of serious concern to the right, who have labeled this type of tax as “punitive”.

    The right wing argument that is coming from the government and their supporters, is that the powerless victims should be punished and that the perpetrators of the crisis should be left alone.

    How ironic is that?

    This article first appeared in the Dominion on March 12.

    http://www.interest.co.nz/ratesblog/index.php/2010/03/16/opinion-why-a-robin-hood-tax-on-banks-would-be-punitive-and-poorly-targeted/

    Reading the counter-argument actually strengthens my conviction that this is a GREAT idea.

    It would like to hear from the self described “left” Fabian Seminar speakers whether they are for or against, or neither.

    So far I detect a neutral position on this issue from Selwyn Pellet, it would be good to hear what other speakers on the Fabian panel think about an FTT.

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