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Taxpayers Union – concentrating on the banal and ignoring the big issues

Written By: - Date published: 1:56 pm, March 3rd, 2014 - 45 comments
Categories: greens, Media - Tags: , , ,

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:

  • “The National government paying Paula Rebstock $290,000 for her failed inquiry
  • Gerry Brownlee spending $1500 to lease an SUV while watching the America’s Cup race in San Francisco.
  • Tim Groser and a private secretary spending over $8500 to stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington for a week, during a month in which Groser spent $18,200.
  • John Key, DPS bodyguards and staffers flying down to Queenstown for the New Zealand golf open, at an as-yet unknown cost.”

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.

45 comments on “Taxpayers Union – concentrating on the banal and ignoring the big issues ”

  1. fambo 1

    If the name is the “Taxpayers Union” shouldn’t everyone who pays taxes be entitled to join? I’d love to see someone legally challenge the organisation on the basis that their membership application was rejected despite them being a taxpayer.

    • mickysavage 1.1

      Hehe

      We could flood them with applications and express concern if the applications were not handled properly!

      • Well – you could. But more likely they’d just take your $5, because the members don’t matter. Over on Dimpost, Izogi made the following comment:

        “It’s more interesting to read the society’s rules, though.

        The Incorporated Society Act says that it has to have rules for becoming members — furthermore you can read its rules from the incorporation document, which say “membership” is open to any NZ citizen or permanent resident (rule 4.1). In rule 6, though, it defines the initial Board of Directors as three specific people (David Farrar, Jordan Williams and Gabrielle O’Brien), states that up to 15 board members can remain on the board until their 3 year term expires, and they become eligible for reappointment. The only way someone can get onto the Board is if the existing Board appoints them. Then they can’t be forcefully removed until their term expires, or if they miss too many meetings.

        And AGMs and SGMs which involve all those people who faithfully paid $5? Well, they’re to discuss… (rule 9.2)… “any business the board puts before it”. So members get to vote at an AGM or SGM — they just have no say in what to actually vote about. Nice for a company or a lobby group or most political parties. Hardly typical of a union or a society in my own [limited] experience.

        Changing the rules of the society? Requires two thirds of the board majority.

        So yes. It’s basically 3 people and their friends with total control between them, pretending to represent members with everything they say and do yet giving those members zero actual influence into the operation of the society, including an ability to choose their own representatives. More like a fan club than anything else.”

        • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.1

          More like a fan club than anything else.

          No, more like another passive income stream for the board of directors.

        • mickysavage 1.1.1.2

          Thanks Andrew. So a self perpetuation elite supported by others with no say in what is happening. Sounds familiar!

        • Anne 1.1.1.3

          So yes. It’s basically 3 people and their friends with total control between them, pretending to represent members with everything they say and do…

          What is so tragic is that the MSM give them the time of the day.

          A few decades ago such bogus outfits would soon be exposed and their operators sent packing usually with a blood nose. But of course those were the days when the main stream media (which was all the media) had at least a modicum of integrity and fairness about them.

    • sweetd 1.2

      Fambo, the “taxpayers union’ is the name, not a summary of their terms and conditions, much in the same way as Labour is just a name and in no way concerned with working people.

      • Enough is Enough 1.2.1

        Nice analogy – very accurate

      • Molly 1.2.2

        You are right that it is just a name, but somehow it is used to give them credence in media reporting.

        “Blokes Talking About A Load of Bollocks” is also a name, but I doubt that they would be given the same supposed legitimacy if they had chosen it.

    • fender 1.3

      Can’t see them rejecting your membership fee or a government grant, just don’t expect them to investigate any Nact spending of taxpayers money.

    • and if they are called ‘the taxpayers’ union’..

      ..and claim to be working in the interests of the long-suffering taxpayer..

      ..with the aim of lessening the tax-burden of/on those long-suffering taxpayers..

      ..(such lofty-stated-aspirations..eh..?..all total bullshit..we all know..but never mind..i’ll play along..)

      ..so..if we accept all the above as being true..

      ..why is this taxpayers union not focusing on the $5 billion in criminally-avoided taxes each and every year..by..in the main..the richest/elites/corporates..rightwingers all..

      ..i would like to see mr williams asked that question..

      ..why he is focusing on such chump-change bullshit…and ignoring that $5 billion dollar elephant..in this ‘taxpayers’ union’ room..?

      (and as an aside..they must think we are all really fucken dumb as a sack of doorknobs..eh..?

      ..setting up a rightwing attack-machine..(with the anti-mmp pimp fronting it..and black-heart farrar lurking in the background/whispering instructions..)

      ..and claiming some sort of non-partisan status..?

      ..laughable–really..)

      phillip ure..

  2. fender 2

    Why aren’t these dorks honest enough to name their lobby group: “Only Right-Wingers Are Allowed To Spend Taxpayers Money Union”

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Taxpayers Union upset over Mojo story

    But after being contacted by 3 News following backlash on social media where the union have been likened to the National Front and American right-wing Tea Party, Mr Williams says his comments have been reported in a poor light.

    The poor dear. /sarc

    Considering his comments he obviously got reported in exactly the right light.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1

      On the one hand it’s good to hear Jordan whining at being correctly characterised on Facebook, on the other hand why is anything he says newsworthy? If his owners need to say something they should say it themselves.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        But then they wouldn’t be able to maintain the needed anonymity that allows Jordan to claim independence.

  4. Tracey 4

    with all that money and pr and legal advice, he… misspoke????? mr williams group, i assumed was an armslength dirt whisperer for ACT?

  5. Hayden 5

    “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.”

    Well, that’s a bit stupid, it’s not as if she was flying the plane (and I come up with lots of brilliant ideas while driving, most of which I forget immediately).

  6. Lanthanide 6

    The really sad thing, for the TU, not for us, is that when Labour are next in government, the TU will be all over up-and-down criticizing them for their spending.

    Except that their track record so far shows that they have not attacked this government over their spending, of which there clearly is some questionable.

    That means it will be very easy to label them as a partisan hack front, rather than any truly independent group, and they can simply be ignored.

    Pretty poor execution on their part.

  7. rhinocrates 7

    Let’s not forget Farrar’s involvement in this group, or that they specifically targeted a disabled person thinking that she’d be an easy target to marginalise. Despicable, bigoted, cowardly.

    • Anne 7.1

      Last week the target was Pete Hodgson who was in Papua New Guinea at the time the story on him broke so he didn’t get a chance to clear it up quickly. I think that’s what happened. Here’s Farrar’s take on the story….

      http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/02/editorials_on_gentlemens_agreement.html

      Hodgson was interviewed late last week by RNZ and cleared the matter up. It seems the Dunedin Council staff member(s) charged with the task of putting the OIA together stuffed up big time. Hodgson had copies of the appropriate documentation and faxed them to RNZ. Everything was in order and above board! STORY SANK.

      Any apology for Pete Hodgson? I doubt it.

      This week it’s Mojo Mathers.

      Who is it next week?

      It’s another filthy campaign by Nact to create an impression the Opposition Parties can’t be trusted, are dishonest and fraudsters. There’s a special expression for a person/people who transfer their own dishonesty and fraudulent/unlawful activity on to the shoulders of their victims. Can’t remember it offhand.

    • geoff 7.2

      And stupid!

      • rhinocrates 7.2.1

        And Farrar has set his dogs on children in the past to intimidate their mother. The scum.

        • geoff 7.2.1.1

          Argh, what a creep.

          • rhinocrates 7.2.1.1.1

            She later attempted suicide. He’d have had her blood on his hands if she’d succeeded. Thankfully she’s still alive, but she’s permanently scarred. Farrar or course just got another Nat paycheque and has probably forgotten it.

            That’s “formenting merry mischief” as he calls it.

    • Murray Olsen 7.3

      As far as I’m concerned, Farrar comes across as filthier and more despicable than WhaleSpew. In the days of empire, Farrar would have been the soft handed perfumed toff who signed warrants for the torture of colonials by the likes of Slater. Both were necessary for their filthy project, but the Farrars were closer to the real power.

  8. shorts 8

    There was a table of the number of press releases the Union had issued and on what (sorry can’t find it now)… the most releases were to do with Len Brown (11), nothing else garnered over 2 releases and if memory serves there were approx 22 in total – suggesting they are more a rate payers union, and Auckland one at that (representing no one)

    Still I sleep safe that expenditure of $500 approx is not too small for them to take a interest in…

  9. i imagine williams lurking around lab/grn offices..

    ..counting/re-counting pencils/checking waste-paper bins..

    ..re-bending paper-clips..

    ..ever vigilant..!

    ..phillip ure..

  10. TightyRighty 10

    did you pen the headline of this article Mickey? delicious irony

    • Lanthanide 10.1

      Here are the headlines from Mickey’s 4 most recent posts beside this one:
      The retirement age debate.
      National misleads on child poverty.
      The Genesis share float has problems.
      Labour’s new parliamentary chief of staff.

      If anyone is focussing on the banal, it’s you.

  11. karol 11

    Maybe we could start an Association of Creators of Wealth (AoCOW).

    The objective would be monitor what corporates do with the wealth produced by workers.

  12. captain hook 12

    Its worse than mean spirited. Its totally unconscionable and typical of the banal level of New Zealands poltical debate.
    The country is run by C grade students and poltroons and the thecommentariat and self apponted blatherers are on the same level.
    This sort of attack is infantile and needs to be condemmed by all parties immediately.

  13. RedBaronCV 13

    Maybe we need a new body called the taxpayers & ratepayers union, with similar rules that offers opposing comment. Should muddy the waters nicely.

  14. RedBaronCV 14

    That man has missed his best career option as a nit picking auditor.

  15. red blooded 15

    Of course, part of the irony is that these right wing ideologues don’t want to pay tax. Maybe we should set up an alternative group called Taxpayers United. Wonder if the media would ask for a rep to appear on The Nation and pontificate on behalf of those of us who believe in a progressive tax system to support societal structures that offer opportunities to all? Nah – probably not.

  16. Rob 16

    They are just a joke but unfortunately the MSM give them space and therefore enable them a degree of credibility
    Credibility is something Farrar Williams et al are not really entrusted with.

  17. Tigger 17

    Come on MSM, it’s time to do an in depth piece on this ‘union’ and ensure everyone knows what they really are – a far right shill.

  18. rhinocrates 18

    As I’ve suggested above, those arsewipes like Farrar, Slater and Hooton jerk themselves off imagining that they’re “players” in some exciting game, but they have real victims: ordinary people whose lives they casually ruin with every ejaculation.

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