Nats still involved in dodgy donations

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, April 16th, 2009 - 38 comments
Categories: corruption, election 2008, election funding - Tags:

The Herald covers some of the donations to parties and candidates before the election.

One of the big donors was the Road Transport Forum, the trucking lobby, who were behind the famous ‘truck strike’.

They’re getting value for money eh? National’s Transport Minister Steven Joyce has taken half a billion out of public transport and hundreds of millions more out of road safety and put it into the state highways. Nice wee subsidy that. On top of that, Joyce has said he will stop the New Zealand Transport Agency from offering freight companies incentives to take their freight off the road and onto rail, even though it makes economic sense in terms of road maintenance alone. Another little bonus for the truckers.

The really interesting part of the article is this:

A mystery entity called Toorak Chambers also gave $3000 each to National MPs Simon Bridges, David Bennett, Todd McLay, and Lindsay Tisch.

When questioned, one of the recipients said it was linked to the National Party and referred the Herald to the party’s headquarters.

However, phone calls to general manager Mike Oldershaw and president Judy Kirk were not returned.

For the last decade, National secretly channeled money from a few rich donors to its campaigns via the Waitemata Trust. The Electoral Finance Act made that illegal (which is why National and its mates opposed the Act). It’s not surprising that National has found some other way to get money to its candidates while hiding the donors’ identity. They should come clean on Toorak Chambers quickly to avoid the stink of corruption.

The Herald also notes:

Under the new disclosure rules introduced under the Electoral Finance Act, candidates have to disclose all donations of money, goods or services worth more than $1000 and cannot accept anonymous donations of more than $1000.

Without those rules, we wouldn’t know about Toorak Chambers and who is providing the money behind our politicians. Let’s hope National keeps those transparency requirements in its new electoral law. If it doesn’t that really will be an attack on democracy.

38 comments on “Nats still involved in dodgy donations”

  1. Kevin Welsh 1

    Is anyone really surprised by this. Just look at who the CEO for this organisation is. Another failed National Party politician.

  2. Chris 2

    Amazingly good returns gotten by the Road Transport Forum and its associated lobby groups…

    All in a ‘government sector’. Which begs the question – why do they need government support to make a buck? Corporate welfare and nanny state all rolled into one….

  3. Berry 3

    who is it Kevin?

    • Kevin Welsh 3.1

      Tony Friedlander if I remember correctly. New Plymouth MP during the 1970’s and 80’s and he may have been Transport Minister, can’t remember.

  4. sweetd 4

    Hmmm, Labour also got money from the Road Transport Forum. Those half dozen of so paragraphs from the top of the article hard to read Eddie?

    • John 4.1

      Just what I was thinking sweetd. Appears the Road Transport Forum has put a $ each way to ensure that there voice is always heard, regardless of which party is in power. Don’t see the problem. Just another example of turning a straight forward article into an attempted pot shot at the National Party.

  5. jerry 5

    Interesting article I’m not sure why you’ve chosen to use it as a smear just to the Nats as

    “Tony Friedlander said the group had also donated $30,000 to the National Party and $20,000 to the Labour Party – making its total donations $95,000.”

    “Fletcher Building also confirmed yesterday it had donated $20,000 to each of National, Labour and the Maori Party.”

    “Those who declared donations of $5000 from the Road Transport Forum were National’s Tau Henare, Eric Roy, Nick Smith, Anne Tolley, and Chris Tremain, and Labour MPs Shane Jones, Trevor Mallard, Damien O’Connor and David Parker.”

    “The returns reveal that the fishing industry was also supporting various candidates – Peter Talley gave $10,000 to Shane Jones and Talley’s also gave $5000 to Kaikoura MP Colin King (National).

    Anyway it’s all fairly trivial amounts in the greater scheme of things – what would you get for 10k these days in terms of advertising …… sweet FA I’d suggest.

    Kypros Kotzikas – the president of United Fisheries – gave $5000 to Nicky Wagner and Independent Fisheries gave $3000 to Labour’s Clayton Cosgrove.

    Mr Jones put his $10,000 donation from Peter Talley down to their common Dalmatian ancestry.”

  6. IrishBill 6

    Jerry, I agree. I’ve long harangued Labour for taking donations from vested interests if anything this spreading around of big money shows the system needs cleaning up.

    That raises the issue of public funding of parties. The question is how do do it without advantaging current parties with a parliamentary presence and artificially locking in the status quo?

  7. Graeme 7

    The Herald also notes:

    Under the new disclosure rules introduced under the Electoral Finance Act, candidates have to disclose all donations of money, goods or services worth more than $1000 and cannot accept anonymous donations of more than $1000.

    Without those rules, we wouldn’t know about Toorak Chambers and who is providing the money behind our politicians.

    Except we would, because this was also required under the old law.

    Let’s hope National keeps those transparency requirements in its new electoral law.

    It already has.

    For the last decade, National secretly channeled money from a few rich donors to its campaigns via the Waitemata Trust. The Electoral Finance Act made that illegal (which is why National and its mates opposed the Act).

    Yet they managed to keep all those rules in their new amendment (and said at the time that they supported them). Very sneaky – come out in favour of laws you disagree with in opposition, and then pass near-identical copies of the rules to which you were fundamentally opposed once in office – what will they think of next?

  8. Sorry Eddie, not a good post.

    If you’ve tried to take aim at the Nats you’ve ended up collecting Labour in the cross fire. It’s telling that you make no mention of Labour receiving money from the truckies for a start.

    I also think it shows yet again that Labour/the left aren’t prepared to learn from the mistakes – just like Helen won’t admit to making mistakes.

    The opposition to the EFA came from multiple sources for a wide range of reasons.

    I’m sure your comments on the attack on democracy are well meaning but rich in irony. After all, there was no acceptance here of the “chilling impact on democracy” line prior to the election so it’s interesting now that that you would use that line of attack.

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    Mr Friedlander said donations were offered to a range of candidates from different parties.

    “It’s getting one in each of the different parts of the country so that our members in that area can go and talk to them about issues that affect our industry. It’s simply assisting the democratic process.”

    No, that’s trying to buy democracy – ie, totally corrupt. Everybody is supposed to have equal access to the representatives and be taken equally seriously and not be able to buy access.

    • John 9.1

      Draco, you are obviously in support of tax payer funded election campaigns? Although there is merit in such an argument, I don’t believe that it would go down too well with the NZ public.

      • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1

        I would prefer publicly funded political parties (although I don’t like political parties at all) to donations. We have a donation funded system ATM though it just needs to be a hell of a lot more transparent than it is.

        I’m also concerned that Mr Friedlander fully expected something that he isn’t entitled to from his donations. It is, as you say, a very poignant argument for publicly funded politics. I believe that we should ask the public if they would go along with the idea considering the corruption that is possible in a donation funded system rather than just assume that they won’t. But, then, I think democracy is a good idea.

  10. djp 10

    Joyce has said he will stop the New Zealand Transport Agency from offering freight companies incentives to take their freight off the road and onto rail, even though it makes economic sense in terms of road maintenance alone

    This is good, subsidies are bad economics, I am pretty sure the RUC charges easily cover the road maintenance too.

    • Felix 10.1

      Ah, no.

      Ordinary car users actually pay far more per user for the roads. I can’t remember the exact numbers but I seem to recall a study late last year showing that heavy trucks only pay about 55% of the cost of the damage they cause to the roads while car users pay considerably more (70%?).

      I’m sure someone can post a link to it.

      So if you don’t like subsidies then you must be pissed that govt spending on roads is a huge subsidy to truckers, paid for by everyone else.

  11. The Voice of Reason 11

    Toorak Chambers appear to be Aussie accountants, based in Adelaide, but named after Melbourne’s poshest suburb. Presumably they wrote a cheque on behalf of a client.

    • Graeme 11.1

      That seems unlikely. Foreign donations over $1000 are illegal.

      I would anticipate that that it is Toorak Chambers Incorporated, as listed on the register of incorporated socities (direct link seemingly not possible, search for Toorak at http://www.societies.govt.nz/cms/banner_template/SOCAGENT).

      The Waikato Times has information http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/2338947/Cash-gifts-for-Waikato-MPs.

      • Paul 11.1.1

        it’s interesting going back thru their accounts, they gave out:

        2007: $0
        2006: $0
        2005: $22,000
        2004: $14,000 *
        2003: $27,900 *
        2002: $0
        2001: $0
        2000: $0

        no accounts are available online prior to that, obviously they were saving up for 2008 …

        the things labeled ‘*’ are labeled “national part debt forgiven” the $27k was long term debt carried from before 2000 (ie an old loan to the party), in 2003 they not only write off the old 27k debt to the nats but also loaned them another $14k which they then wrote off the following year

        Not included in the above is a loan to ‘National Bank 1002’ of $65k in 2004 – at first I thought this was a CD of some sort – but I think it’s a transfer to an anonymous account/slush fund because in 2005 they write off ~10% of it, the same thing happens in 2006 and 2007 – if it were a CD you would expect the value to be increasing

  12. Irascible 12

    Toorak Chambers? A Melbourne Group of Lawyers? An off-shore donation possibility.
    Dodgy stuff again from the Tories.

    • jerry 12.1

      $12 grand ……… gawd if that’s as serious as dodgy stuff gets in NZ methinks we are as clean as driven snow.

      At least the Brits can come up with a decent sex scandal every now and then.

  13. Clarke 13

    djp: The Ministry of Transport did a study in late 2005 called Surface Transport Costs and Charges, which concluded that trucks only meet 56% of their costs while motorists pay 64% and rail 82%.

    The updated study is being done at the moment – http://www.transport.govt.nz/understanding-transport-costs-and-charges-utcc/

    These are the direct costs to the roading network only – it doesn’t take account of the fact that according to the Ministry, “Because of their large mass trucks tend to be over represented in serious crashes. Deaths from crashes involving trucks make up around 18 percent of the total road toll, while only about seven percent of the total distance travelled on NZ roads is travelled by trucks.”

    And then they go on to say:

    “In crashes involving trucks most of the deaths are not truck occupants, but rather the other road users involved. This reflects the fact that in a collision between a heavy vehicle and a light vehicle or vulnerable road user there is a much higher probability of death or serious injury than in a collision involving only light vehicles.”

    Better yet, the revenue paid by trucks (and cars, for that matter) exclude the costs of their carbon emissions under Kyoto, which is another way in which we subsidise the trucking industry.

    So to be clear:

    – Truckies only pay 56% of their direct costs
    – They disproportionately cause deaths and injuries on the road, largely to other road users
    – They don’t even pretend to pay the real costs of their environmental impact

    In other words, there is a multi-billion dollar subsidy from the taxpayer to the trucking industry. That’s why it’s in the best interests of Tony Friedlander (ex-National cabinet minister) to purchase as many politicians as possible – so that the pork can continue to roll to the truckies, and us taxpayers can continue to get shafted.

  14. Felix,

    The study you refer to is the MoT’s 2005 Surface Transportation Cost Comparison study, subsequently renamed Surface Transport Costs and Charges. The study doesn’t claim that heavy trucks only pay about 55% of the cost of the damage they cause to the roads while car users pay considerably more (70%?).What it claims is that trucks are only paying 56% of what they would have to pay if they payed GST and if roads were privavtised and had to earn a commercial return on capital invested. The study also noted that the railways weren’t earning a proper commercial rate of return either even though it was privately owned. The authors of the study could have avoided confusing the public by treating rail as though it wasn’t privatised and giving it a credit for it’s profits. That method leads to the conclusion that cars, trucks and trains are all within a few percent of covering their costs, assuming maintenance is not being deferred. Note that as the study excluded GST it really should have excluded the costs imposed on the Crown by each mode..

    I can’t find a link to the full study but the summary findings is here:
    http://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Images/NewFolder-2/Overview-for-pdf.pdf
    and Q&A is here:
    http://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/_PDFAttachment/surface-transport-costs-and-charges.pdf

    The latter includes this table (referring to 2001/02 financial year)
    4. Who is overpaying and who is underpaying for land transport?
    The total cost analysis shows that no one is overpaying and that all land transport users
    are underpaying to varying degrees. For example:
    • cars directly pay 64% of their costs
    • trucks directly pay 56% of their costs
    • buses directly pay 68% of their costs
    • rail users directly pay 77% of their costs

  15. Pascal's bookie 15

    Clarke and Kevin: Thanks.

    Thank God we’ve got the ACT party in there to sort this out. It’s pretty obvious what needs to happen. Sack those MoT timewasters that are doing these sort of frivolous useless reports. Pronto.

  16. Clarke 16

    Pascal: You’ve got to admire Friedlander for his return on investment … he spends $95K purchasing politicians, and he gets $1 billion re-allocated to roading. That’s about a 1,000,000% ROI, the kind of result that even Bernie Madoff would envy.

    I wonder if it’s because Friedlander is an astute purchaser, or simply because our politicians are so astoundingly cheap ….

    • Clarke,
      “Pascal: You’ve got to admire Friedlander for his return on investment he spends $95K purchasing politicians, and he gets $1 billion re-allocated to roading. That’s about a 1,000,000% ROI, the kind of result that even Bernie Madoff would envy.”

      Have another look at the proposed GPS. From memory, and in broad numbers, PT loses $250mil, local roads lose $250 mil, road users pay a further $500mil in road fees and STATE HIGHWAYS receive an additional $1bn.

      I think Freidlander might be well advised to stay inside during duck season. He hasn’t done his rural members or urban delivery members any good at all.

  17. djp 17

    You guys may want to read my comment again:

    I am pretty sure the RUC charges easily cover the road maintenance too.

    That hokey study you refer to tries to pin all sorts of costs on transport quite apart from road maintenance (climate change being one of them heh)

    • Pascal's bookie 17.1

      I think people got sidetracked when you said that subsidies are bad economics and thought you meant it.

      But thanks for showing me that however one tries to parody rightwingers these days, one will usually only be predicting the shit they actually say.

      • Clarke 17.1.1

        I think it’s just so sad that the crazy right-wingers no longer believe in user-pays. Here we are having to pay for their trucking industry, their failed investment banks, their dodgy finance companies ….

  18. trucker 19

    Kevyn Miller,

    The 2005 Surface Transportation Study was somewhat selective in the information that it used, and has been shown to be inaccurate. It was written by Rail’s consultants, Booze Allan. When apples were compared with apples then road was shown to be paying a larger percentage of costs than rail over similar routes. The percentages you quote have been revised.

    Draco T Bastard
    “No, that’s trying to buy democracy – ie, totally corrupt. Everybody is supposed to have equal access to the representatives and be taken equally seriously and not be able to buy access.”

    In theory you are right, but in practice you are not. Everybody is supposed to have equal access, but they don’t. Greens had far more access to the last government than Truckers because that’s the way it was. Access does not guarantee any result.

  19. sweetd 20

    “Meanwhile, the mystery of $3000 donations to several National MPs from “Toorak Chambers” has been cleared up. Toorak Chambers is an incorporated society which owns a building in Hamilton.

    The “donations” were effectively a dividend from profits to the members – National’s central North Island electorate branches.”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10567009

  20. Clarke 21

    Trucker: If – as you claim – the STCC methodology has been revised, then post the link, dude.

    The only revision I can find is the UTCC work I linked to earlier, which at least has the merit of coming from something other than an industry lobby group. And I have to say, your unsubstantiated assertions (“when apples were compared with apples then road was shown to be paying a larger percentage of costs than rail”) look awfully like the Road Transport Forum talking points, such as in this backgrounder:

    http://209.85.173.132/search?q=cache:gHmC65jgZKYJ:www.rtfnz.co.nz/catalog/A_Backgrounder965.doc+Surface+Transport+costs+and+charges&cd=8&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=nz

    As for “equal access” to government, I note that the Road Transport Forum was well able to organise a “protest” against rising diesel prices by driving all those trucks into the centre of Wellington – which was clearly intended to have political impact – so forgive me if I’m only crying crocodile tears for you guys.

    • I haven’t seen the revised report either, but that’s because when the MoT removed the full original report from their website they didn’t replace it with a new version. The original report which I saved on my computer substantiates trucker’s assertions “when comparing apples with apples” but we should all remember that their are many types of apples and, to mix metaphors, competition between road and rail on specific routes is always going to be a matter of horses for courses.

  21. trucker 22

    Trucker

    The report I have about the STCC is not on the web, so I can not post a link.MOT have it somewhere.

    The background paper probably was generated from the report, but I had not seen it before your link.

    The RTF did not protest against rising diesel prices. The protest was against the way the government went back on their word about RUC increases, and yes of course it was intended to create political impact.

    Protesting against rising fuel prices would have been futile as there was nothing our government could have done about it.

    We don’t want your tears, crocodile or otherwise, but thanks for the thought.

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