The Taxpayer’s Union is one of the first astroturfing organisations we have seen in Aotearoa. Nominally independent it has as its members the Government’s chief blogger, and is based in the law firm of Franks & Ogilvie whose partners include former ACT and National candidate Stephen Franks as well as Jordan Williams who has close links with National and in particular Simon Lusk.
The choice of the word “Union” in the title is no doubt an in joke. I can confidently say that the movers and shakers behind this particular entity have no sympathy for the trade union movement.
The objects of the society include the giving of taxpayers a voice in the corridors of power, to educate New Zealand against excessive and wasteful spending, to scrutinise Government spending and to publicise Government waste, among other objectives. Membership is limited to those persons who the board of the society approves and it would be interesting to see who has applied and if they were approved.
Recent campaigns have been run to get Len Brown pay for the investigation into his use of Council resources even though he neither authorised the investigation nor consented to it, the failure to seek repayment of $100,000 set aside for a yacht race that did not occur, and health and safety training paid for by ACC. The latest to be criticised is Green MP Mojo Mathers for, well, travelling to do her job.
The attacks by the TU appear to be scattered and concentrate on targets that are not to do with the Government. The one reported criticism of the Government that I can find was met with demands for a correction by Jordan Williams. Obviously he was deeply concerned at the the impression that he had criticised Lockwood Smith.
But as pointed out by Danyl McLaughlan the TU are missing some rather big targets that should be subject to intense scrutiny. Danyl has listed the following examples:
Of course there are thousands of other examples that can be added, for instance the millions that have been spent on selling our assets at what looks more and more likely to be too cheaply.
The recent attack on Mojo Mathers is bizarre. Mojo impresses me as being a highly dedicated MP who despite the difficulties caused by her hearing impediment gives the job everything she has. She travelled last week to Masterton to be interviewed for a local station on disability issues. She had to attend personally so that she could lip read, and, get this Williams, she was not able to conduct the interview on the phone.
In what looks like a leaked attack the Sunday Herald exposed details of the trip complete with a comment from Williams. To quote from the article:
The Taxpayers Union questioned whether it was value for money.
“It’s amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand,” director Jordan Williams said.
“The only silver lining is that the time spent travelling to go on the station in the middle of nowhere is less time spent dreaming up new ways to spend tax payers money.”
You have to wonder how the Herald discovered that the trip had been made. I should attribute this concern to Pete George who has raised this issue on his blog. He is right to say that how an Auckland paper learned about a Christchurch MP travelling to Masterton is suspicious.
On Facebook Williams has confirmed that the TU was tipped off about the trip, and that he was questioned about it by the Herald by phone. No press release was prepared. He also criticised the environmental damage caused by the trip! When in a hole Jordan it is best that you stop digging.