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What does the Taxpayer’s Union have against Callaghan Innovation?

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, October 5th, 2018 - 57 comments
Categories: Media, national, same old national - Tags: ,

There was an interesting interview involving Taxpayers’ Union head Jordan Williams yesterday morning aired on Radio New Zealand.

His appearance was a defence of the use of fake names when making OIA requests.  Why The Taxpayer’s Union could not get real private persons to ask the questions on its behalf was not explained.  At least when real people ask questions there should be an obligation to reply.  But if the names are fictitious then you have to question everything else that the “union” says.

Radio New Zealand summarised the interview in this way:

A right-wing lobby group has defended its use of false names when lodging Official Information Act requests, saying the practice is necessary and in the public interest.

Executive director of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, Jordan Williams, told Morning Report the number of information requests using the practice was “certainly under 40” and that these had only been lodged after it became clear the organisation was being stonewalled by government agencies.

He said revelations of the practice were embarrassing, but also a poor reflection on the level of transparency shown by some agencies his group had put under scrutiny.

The NZ Herald uncovered evidence showing people seeking information did not actually exist and that numerous email addresses from its purported members were directly linked to the group’s head office.

One single Taxpayers’ Union email address was linked to nine fake identities who filed OIAs seeking information, including details later used by the lobby group to seek disseminate stories in the media.

Mr Williams claimed his organisation made requests to Callaghan Innovation using ghost names because an insider at the science research institute revealed to them the group’s requests were being treated differently to others.

Callaghan Innovation received a total of 58 OIA requests last year, of which 35 were from the Taxpayers’ Union or people associated with the lobby group.

He claimed that TU Official Information Act requests were being deliberately held up by Callaghan Innovation.  But it made me wonder why they would do this.

The Taxpayers’ Union’s concentration on Callaghan Innovation is interesting.  It is not as if the organisation is a socialist front.  The Chief Executive is Vic Crone, the right’s Auckland Mayoral candidate last election.

And the board is hardly a seething mess of left wingers.  Sure the current chair is former Labour Minister Pete Hodgson.  But he was only appointed in January of this year.  Well after the problems started.

And other board members were all National appointments.  Deputy chair Robin Hapi was appointed in January 2013.  Al Monro was appointed in July 2015.  Frances Valintine, Kate McGrath and Simon Botherway were appointed in March 2016.  And Stefan Korn and George Gong were appointed in September 2017 by Paul Goldsmith, interestingly during the election campaign period.

So the Taxpayers’ Union along with its eight employees’ preoccupation with Callaghan Institute is somewhat surprising.  Unless it is evidence of the conservative civil war in Auckland that seems to have been going on for a while.  Maybe the supporters of the John Palino Mayoral campaign, at least until he supported Maori representation, are really annoyed that Crone bet their man.

57 comments on “What does the Taxpayer’s Union have against Callaghan Innovation?”

  1. Dukeofurl 1

    isnt CI a bit of a slush fund for ‘digital entrepreneurs’ ?
    From memory it used to the the Industrial Research division of DSIR, and after corporatisation became IRL.
    making stuff is hived off to China now seen as old world and its rah rah digital

  2. Sacha 2

    Callaghan represents state intervention in the sacred market that does not always benefit the ‘right’ players. Naturally the private schoolboys of the Taxpayers Onion hate it.

  3. Andre 3

    I’ve had a few experiences around the process of getting grants from Callaghan Innovation and similar predecessor organisations.

    They have all turned into exercises in generating massive amounts of paperwork nobody actually looks at for real content, just that it superficially ticks the boxes, for the purpose of giving away taxpayer money to companies that are already doing very well, thank you, so that those companies do things they should do for themselves without encouragement (and usually already are).

    So I support the idea of squinty cynical eyes being turned on Callaghan Innovation looking for bloat and waste. But jeez, the Taxpayers Onion? That bunch of fuckwits is more likely to give CI an undeserved aura of victimhood and probity than they are likely to show up the very real flaws in the model.

    • Chuck 3.1

      I agree with you, Andre on your experiences with Callaghan Innovation.

      Callaghan Innovation in the business circles I frequent is not held in high regard, to say the least. The model needs to change.

      Good on the Tax Payers Union peeling back the layers.

      • Dukeofurl 3.1.1

        It is changing.
        Labour is moving to R&D tax credits instead of cash grants of $250 mill per year.

        What layers were the Non Tax payers Union peeling back? That relatively trifling sums were spent hospitality ?
        The splurge in TU interest only seems to be after the election not before

      • Andre 3.1.2

        But the Taxpayers Onion haven’t successfully peeled back the layers.

        Because of the individuals involved in the Taxpayers Onion and the methods they have chosen to use, the discussion has immediately devolved into a pigsty wrestling match about those individuals and methods, rather than being a serious discussion about what CI is doing now, what it should be doing, and how it should be doing it. So CI is escaping the scrutiny it really needs.

    • patricia bremner 3.2

      Sounds about right Andre

    • Jay 3.3

      Thanks, sums up my experience with them too. They didn’t do the slightest thing to help a struggling inventor of my acquaintance with a fantastic invention he had. It was just endless bureaucracy and little hope of anything in the way of actual cash. Unless that is they’re spending it on themselves.

      I think they might have been big backers of the Martin jetpack but I could be wrong. That project of course has now (quite predictably) fallen over

  4. SaveNZ 4

    Maybe Taxpayers union’s problem is that the fund, funds innovation and they want NZ to go back to feudal times and see innovation as a threat…

    Headed by a women as well, maybe it’s too much equality for Jordan Williams…

    • Dukeofurl 4.1

      There were never really interested in the real background

      “Last week the Taxpayers’ Union revealed the government’s science funding agency Callaghan Innovation spent more than $300,000 in a year on entertaining clients and staff. ”

      $300k is not a lot of money in this context. Maybe it shouldnt be so much but its not exactly earth shattering news.

      It may be a bit strange that the outfit doling out the money is giving the applicants the 5 star treatment, but thats NZ !

  5. Pete 5

    RNZ described the Taxpayers’ Union as a ‘right wing lobby group.”

    What the union has is a battle for relevance. It has the desire to create disquiet and unrest. It takes the mantra ‘fomenting happy mischief’ further by dressing its soldier in a suit and tie, having him photographed in front of big buildings after a press release has been sent out hoping for a quiet news day so it is published nation-wide.

    The latest thing with Callaghan is meant to suggest that without a National Government things are rotten in the state. Just adding to the general impression they want to create.

    Jordan Williams and David Farrar trying to create an impression of rottenness? Fancy that. No suits needed.

    • Sacha 5.1

      Farrar does seem to like that pig suit though.

      • NZJester 5.1.1

        It is amazing how those on the right will use others intellectual property without paying for it. I guess the defense is it is Porky Pig-esque.

        • Sacha 5.1.1.1

          Be great if someone approached the copyright owner about the rip-off. Can’t see Warner Bros turning the other cheek, unless maybe it was a sly side-bar to their agreement with the last govt.

    • ianmac 5.2

      The IOAs were back before the last election weren’t they?

  6. ianmac 6

    Interview this morning on RNZ. Pete Hodgson reckons that the response to Taxpayers Union was 100% on time and legal. The requests from the Taxpayers Union cost Callaghans $103,000+.
    The Ombudsman also interviewed, is going to have an enquiry into the actions of Callaghan and the TU to make sure that the process is transparent.

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018665498/ombudsman-mulls-inquiry-after-callaghan-reveals-oia-requests
    https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018665501/oia-requests-cost-callaghan-innovation-103k

    • Muttonbird 6.1

      Yes. Serial, vexatious, and obsessive OIA requesters (even going as far as using fake names and stealing names from real people) actually cost the government and government funded organisations more than they are purporting to try and save.

      How ironic.

      • Bearded Git 6.1.1

        Excellent point Mr./Ms. Muttonbird

      • greywarshark 6.1.2

        Muttonbird @ 6.1
        What disgraceful behaviour against our government by a supposed ‘concerned’ citizen group. Traitors to the country they profess to love; they love to lay waste to it instead. Despicable and dangerous, they are just a different form of bad hacker – their way is to hack at our roots. They are like vandals who bore and pour poison into trees or spray crop-killing poisons.

        This is clandestine war against the NZ people as a whole, to satisfy their own group of twisted and insatiably materialistic people.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 6.2

      !!That’s an average of just under $3000 per request.

    • Dennis Frank 6.3

      That’s interesting. Can Callaghan recover that cost ($103K) of the Taxpayer’s Union harassment campaign from TU? Or does the OIA prevent a crown entity from doing so? If it does, is there another legal way for the govt to prevent such ideological lobby groups imposing excessive operational costs on Callaghan?

      Someone ought to put a stop to this behaviour, that’s for sure. Aotearoa needs entrepreneurs, and those operating in a public capacity using science to enhance our common good ought not to be handicapped by Jordan Dickhead & co.

      • Chuck 6.3.1

        “If it does, is there another legal way for the govt to prevent such ideological lobby groups imposing excessive operational costs on Callaghan?”

        Not unless you want to open Pandora’s box. Start banning based on ideological and before you know it the politicians of the day will run riot.

        • Muttonbird 6.3.1.1

          I’d say there’s a case to discourage obsessive OIA requests and, as in the case of the Taxdodgers’ Union fraudulent practice, to discourage identity theft and identity invention.

          I really do think you have to be a real real person in order to ask a question.

          Law change coming up to stop these ratbags doing it again.

          • Dukeofurl 6.3.1.1.1

            There is a process in OIA where you have to confirm that you are a NZ resident . Its only used when it may be an overseas persons asking for OI.

            Just make it apply when you think catfishing is occurring.

            And its clear when on obscure entity gets a whole lot of requests from people who are asking same things.

      • veutoviper 6.3.2

        The ability to charge for OIA requests requring a lot of work/time have been in place since the OI Act came into force in 1982- and can be applied by any organisation (including govt depts, crown entities etc) to which the Official Information Act applies.

        https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/1982-Official-Information-Act-charging-guidelines.pdf

        This PDF doc, although dated 2002, seems to be still the current applicable guidelines.

        https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/1982-Official-Information-Act-charging-guidelines.pdf

        I assume there could be problems trying to charge retrospectively, but CI and others could perhaps start charging TU for most future OIA requests.

        • Dennis Frank 6.3.2.1

          Thanks. TU ought to be punished for trying to game the system so blatantly. Applying the user-pays principle would be the bare minimum to satisfy me. If there’s a ministerial responsibility oversight that applies, I’d also expect the minister to trial a prosecution for the harassment. Parasitic extraction of govt funds by this indirect method ought not to be possible.

          • veutoviper 6.3.2.1.1

            From the inteview on RNZ on Morning Report today (link at 6 above), the Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, is ‘on the case’ and is looking at investigating both CI and TU in relation to these OIAs .

            This is essentially his area of responsibility for oversight and investigation, independent of Ministers etc. So lets wait and see what he decides and the results of any investigations. I have the highest respect for Boshier and was very pleased when he was appointed to his current role.

        • alwyn 6.3.2.2

          Do you really want people using the OIA to be charged at the discretion of the Department, or the Minister.
          Imagine the Minister’s Office.
          Will this embarrass our Government? Yes. Charge them a million dollars.
          Will it embarrass the previous Government? Yes. Expedite it and do it for nothing.
          And don’t tell me it would never happen. They would all do it.

          • veutoviper 6.3.2.2.1

            Where did I say what I wanted? I simply pointed out that the OI Act provides for charges to be able to be levied and here are the current guidelines for such charges.

            The reality is that there is already the ability for a Dept or any other organisation which is subject to the Official Information Act to charge for information provided under an OIA under certain conditions – and at that organisation’s discretion.

            This has been the case since the Act came into place in 1982 – that is for the last 36 years.

            Yes, charges have been levied in fulfilling time consuming and expensive OIAs but have they been doing what you suggest could happen?

            If they had been doing what you suggest, I am sure that we would all have heard about it in the last 36 years.

            Is the whole system due for major review and overhaul? Yes.

            But the last government played the OIA system to their advantage by basically ignoring it and also refusing to instigate a major review and overhaul.

            I suspect that we will see this happen in the not too distant future. TU’s actions that we are all discussing at the moment may well be the trigger for the long overdue review – and I personally think Boshier is the right person to lead it.

            • alwyn 6.3.2.2.1.1

              “Where did I say what I wanted?”
              Well you did finish the comment with
              “CI and others could perhaps start charging TU for most future OIA requests.”
              I took that to be something you were recommending.

              “But the last government played the OIA system to their advantage”.
              I’m sorry but that is simply using the excuse “But they did it too” .

              I simply don’t agree that a Government, or a Department should have the “discretion” to charge or not. If they haven’t been doing so we have been lucky. I don’t want them, any of them and regardless of who forms the Government, having that option.

              When you consider all the money that Governments waste then whatever the OIA costs is simply the rounding error in the budgets.

              • veutoviper

                There is a big difference in the English language between “could’ and “should”. Perhaps you have got by in a long life without noticing the difference. It would explain a lot.

                But to end on a positive note. IIRC, I don’t recall you ‘mansplaining’ …

                • alwyn

                  IIRC
                  As the Urban Dictionary defines it.
                  “IIRC – If I Recall Correctly. Especially common to be used when trying to cover up a vague guess, or when you are truly befuddled and trying to recall a fact of some sort.”
                  Are you really “truly befuddled”?
                  I thought better of you. Shame really.

  7. Michelle 7

    Looks more like the Callaghan appointments made by goldsmith are the right wing lobby group

    • Dukeofurl 7.1

      It seems even worse the announcement was made on national.org.nz

      https://www.national.org.nz/new_callaghan_innovation_board_appointments

      I thought they had beehive.govt.nz for routine ministerial messages of this type.

      This doesnt seem to be so routine. ?

      • veutoviper 7.1.1

        I suggest that you check your facts before making incorrect and misleading claims just to suit your narrative, regardless of which party you are talking about.

        These appointments were announced on the beehive.govt.nz website the same day – probably before the National Party website release.

        https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/new-callaghan-innovation-board-appointments

        It is not at all unusual for the same release to then be used on other websites. The same announcement appeared on Scoop that day and probably lots of other websites.

        http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1709/S00117/new-callaghan-innovation-board-appointments.htm

        Callaghan Innovations also released the following on Scoop five minutes after the above NZ Government release:

        http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1709/S00313/callaghan-innovation-welcomes-new-board-members.htm

      • Dukeofurl 7.1.2

        The Cabinet manual indicate’s a 3 month ‘deferred’ decision making period before elections.

        Yet these 2 positions were announced 12 days before election. Its not as though they didnt know 6 months ago that 2 board positions were needed, and Im sure the board could continue a few short until a new minister can confirm proposed appointees OR NOT.
        https://www.dpmc.govt.nz/sites/default/files/2017-06/cabinet-manual-2017.pdf

        • veutoviper 7.1.2.1

          There is usually a big time difference of months between the “decision making” date of such appointments and the “announcement” date. This is to allow everyone to get their ducks in a row such as sort out starting dates, candidates/appointees getting their affairs in order re current employment, resignations etc etc.

          The actual formal Cabinet ‘decisions’ on these appointments probably would have been made well before the three month period pre-election. The announcements are then just a formality – not a decision. There also may well have been behind the scenes confidential checking with other Political Leaders on their views on the appointees. This often happens, believe it or not.

          • Dukeofurl 7.1.2.1.1

            I dont think national did much ‘checking with labour’ on appointments. famously the new Speaker to replace Lockwood Smith breached convention by not checking with labour before hand . Key just announced Carter s name and that was it.
            https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10862155

            • veutoviper 7.1.2.1.1.1

              They did. I know they did through my work. Not necessarily all proposed appointments but certainly many.

              I am not talking about appointments such as Speakers of the House which are subject to a completely different process and rules (eg Standing Orders etc) to those for appointments to Boards etc such as that of CI which are subject to any relevant legislation establishing the organisation and completely different procedures and rules such as Cabinet Manual etc.

  8. Williams made claims and they need to be scrutinised. Most of the imo ‘fictions’ he said can be easily proved or disproved. He was slippery as an eel in butter on a muddy bank. But he can be fact checked to confirm his truthfulness.

    • adam 8.1

      That’s a very good idea, you should do it marty mars. As I less than confident, that anyone else will do it. The only person who might is Frank Macskasy.

      I know we butt heads marty mars, but I have no doubt you could rip williams a new one by doing this. And quite frankly if there was a slippery eel who needs their lies exposed, it’s williams.

  9. Bearded Git 9

    I loved weasel Farrar on on The Panel the other day saying (something like) “this is not illegal and its totally normal practice and its all the fault of Callaghan anyway”.

    Cue Tui advert.

    Nobody should forget Farrar and Williams’ involvement in Dirty Politics.

    Jim Mora threw Bomber Bradbury off The Panel for left-wing bias; when is he going to do the same to Farrar/Williams? (They tell lies as well)

  10. UncookedSelachimorpha 10

    I have some direct experience of Callaghan grants. Amounted to welfare for a very well-off corporate, majority owned by foreign billionaires. To do work they needed to do anyway, and could easily afford to do.

    Brighter Future!

    • Andre 10.1

      “…majority owned by foreign billionaires…”

      I had the niggling feeling there was something I was leaving out in my rant about CI upthread.

      I’d be really interested to hear from anyone whose experience at the coalface working through getting the grants had a more positive experience than yours and mine. No, I don’t mean the very wealthy owners whose pockets were gratuitously given a bit more padding.

    • patricia bremner 10.2

      Oh, corpoorate help, organised by Key??

  11. Draco T Bastard 11

    So the Taxpayers’ Union along with its eight employees’ preoccupation with Callaghan Institute is somewhat surprising.

    It’s fairly obvious. The RWNJs of the Taxpayers Union believes the lies put out over the last few decades that governments can’t pick winners despite all the evidence (The Entrepreneurial State) that governments do far better at picking winners than the private sector. We wouldn’t have computers at all if the US federal government hadn’t picked and funded the winning research that produced them.

    Basically, what they’re trying to do is to prove that Callaghan Innovation is a waste of money. Their problem is that they’re actions are based entirely upon a false ideology.

    I’m pretty sure that the National hierarchy actually understand the importance of state funded research – they just haven’t told the Taxpayers’ Union or their members and still spout the delusional ideology to the public.

  12. Philj 12

    The murder of the DSIR by crony idealogues is beginning to be realised. Scientific integrity and discovery has gone..

  13. Interesting that the head of the Taxdodgers Onion is this sort of character…

    Why does Jordan Williams expose himself to so much loathing …
    http://www.thepaepae.com/why-does-jordan-williams-expose-himself-to-so…/37233/

    Dirty Politics – The Pantograph Punch
    pantograph-punch.com/post/dirty-politics

    Therefore,… perhaps he / they need to be… ‘scrutinized’ a little more closely… much like his mentors were and came up short in the balance.

    Oh ,.. and a really naff picture of Farrar?

    http://www.thepaepae.com/wp-uploads/2014/10/Farrar-Seville.jpg

  14. outofbed 14

    If you request a OIA from the LTA, they look up to see if you are a Green Activist and then the black markers come out

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