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What they’re hiding

Written By: - Date published: 6:24 am, March 11th, 2009 - 41 comments
Categories: ACC, privatisation - Tags:

Interesting to see that the new ACC board chairman, John Judge, is an alumnus/affiliate member of the Business Roundtable.

That’s the same Business Roundtable that has consistently said that: “the introduction of a state monopoly, no-fault accident compensation scheme in New Zealand had been a huge mistake” and argued “for the introduction of choice and competition into accident insurance.” Hmmm.

Looks like privatisation by stealth to me.


41 comments on “What they’re hiding ”

  1. Not only that but according to his CV he is also an ex-banker as he once was a Director of ANZ.

    I’m sure that Merrill Lynch while being investigated for currency dealing fraud and the payment of excessive bonuses just before they had to be bought out by Bank if America will be happy with their boys ransacking our economy.

  2. cocamc 2

    And was he not appointed to the board of Te Papa by the Labour Government, maybe to privatise that also??
    I thought John Kay has publicy stated that he will not privatise ACC. And this scaremongering of ACC being privatised is irresponsible media. The only area that can be truly opened to competition is the Workers account

    • lprent 2.1

      The part of the phrase you missed out was “this term” according to the minons at a national party social. However that doesn’t stop them attempting to destroy the system this term. Makes it easier to make a pledge before the next election.

      • cocamc 2.1.1

        When the next election is held in 2011 then the opposition can seek answers to the privatisation question then for the second term. Why do you think they are trying to destroy the system, it appears ACC is already broken and needs remediation. I seem to remember that they need over $1 billion to meet shortfalls so change is needed.

      • Tim Ellis 2.1.2

        On the contrary, LP, I think doubling costs, scope and entitlement creep, pursuing a risky investment strategy, dragging feet on fully-funding the scheme, and going into an election promising lower levies while sitting on information that showed dramatic deficits, have gone a long way to destroying confidence in the system.

        The work account is the only account that can be feasibly opened up to competition. This wasn’t a secret. National signalled it would likely do this well before the election. The work account only constitutes a very small proportion of the ACC scheme. It simply isn’t feasible to open the earners or non-earners’ accounts, let alone the motor vehicle account, to competition, let alone privatising it. Labour knows this yet continues to spout the “privatisation by stealth” mantra again.

        If that’s not diversion tactics, I don’t know what is.

        • lprent

          So if National is not planning on dismantling the system after the 2011 election – why don’t they say so. So far National appears to be trying to do their best to undermine the system. Their press releases have been interesting because rather than isolating causes for things that must be fixed, they’re focused on condemning the system – which suggests that they want to move to the higher costs of a private system (eg aussie).

          Most of the information that I’ve seen says that the slow process of fully-funding the system was working reasonably well. The market turmoil obviously doesn’t help with investment funds. But that is the nature of markets – as many pension funds are finding. There isn’t always a bull market.

          Most of the rest appears to be increasing costs rather than massive increased entitlements. That suggests to me that NACT should focus on the cost side, but their pronouncements focus on the entitlement side. But it doesn’t appear that most ministers have shifted to actually doing the hard work of running a government yet.

          • Tim Ellis

            So if National is not planning on dismantling the system after the 2011 election – why don’t they say so.

            National has said repeatedly that it is committed to the principles of the ACC scheme. The reality, which Labour knows, is that the non-earners, earners’, and motor-vehicle accounts can’t be opened up to competition let alone privatised while maintaining universal, no-fault cover. That whole argument is as much as a red-herring as asking Labour to say whether it intends to raise income tax by 30% post-2011. If Labour is committed to a robust, internationally competitive economy as it says it is, then income tax can’t be raised to those levels. If National is committed to the principles of the ACC scheme, then the only account that can effectively be opened to competition is the work account.

            Most of the information that I’ve seen says that the slow process of fully-funding the system was working reasonably well.

            Governments have had a 15-year time frame to deliver this, in order to reduce the short-term impact of dramatically increasing levies that goes with moving to a fully-funded scheme. The fact that Labour was making noises about delaying fully funding the accounts by many years says that fully-funding was not a priority. In other words passing on the costs to future levy-payers. At the same time, Labour was implementing increased entitlements and promising lower levies. You just can’t do that without breaking the system entirely.

            Most of the rest appears to be increasing costs rather than massive increased entitlements.

            Increasing entitlements does mean increased costs. Yes there has been significant health cost inflation, but that is only part of the problem. ACC doesn’t have any capacity to drive down health sector costs. They have considerable purchasing power with respect to tertiary health services, but they are not a treatment provider in their own right. All treatment services are provided on contract either by public health services in the case of some hospital treatment (which is by far a minority of costs), and private health providers in the form of primary health services. In short, it is the entitelement regime that dictates ACC costs, which ACC has very little ability to reduce.

      • Bill 2.1.3

        “However that doesn’t stop them attempting to destroy the system this term.”

        Which is something of a pattern across the board. Whereas the fast and furious assault on social services and rampant privatisation of the 80’s left oppositions continuously on the back foot, largely because it was brand new, this time it all needs to be teed up.

        Apart from the attack on unions…(join your union and lose a days pay being peddled as a positive thing was a cracker)…it means stacking boards first so that there might appear to be a consensus among ‘those in the know’ come term two. Who’s going to hit the streets to save the job of a bureaucrat? It also means three years of propaganda of a ‘this possibility hurts me more than it hurts you’ line…only a possibility mind. When the execution comes around it will be portrayed as a no other option, option.

        The rolling maul.

  3. Tim Ellis 3

    Ev somehow confuses being a board member of a bank with being a “banker”, and then goes off on an anti-John Key tangent against Merrill Lynch, where Judge has never worked.

    Judge was appointed a director of Te Papa by the Labour Government, presumably because of his strong financial management skills. Clearly the ACC Minister felt that with ACC facing a major crisis with increased costs and what appears to be an unnecessary level of risk in its investment scheme and a very dramatic decline in its investment portfolio, that somebody with strong financial management skills was needed on the Board.

    • Tim Ellis seems to thing that being a patronising asshole by addressing everybody but me in response to my comment is the way to go on this Blog.

      Tim Ellis has apparently not understood that it is the banking elite which is responsible for the development fro the very products the ACC invested in and which are now causing the collapse of the entire global financial structure.

      Tim Ellis seems to have forgotten that it was Merrill Lynch who last year announced that the New Zealand healthcare system would be opened up to private insurers and as such is an actual party in the destruction of the ACC> To think that John Key and Merrill Lynch have a separated their ways is ludicrous.

      Key still sometimes meets his former colleagues. In October (2007), some of the most powerful fund managers in the City of London gathered in a smart conference room at Merrill Lynch’s London office, in the shadow of St Paul’s cathedral, to discuss the state of New Zealand’s economy over breakfast.

      The star of the breakfast was Key, the currency poacher now hoping to be elected gamekeeper.

      Sunday Star Times

      Tim Ellis doesn’t seem to understand that the banksters offloaded their crappy shit to pension funds, Insurance companies and healthcare investment funds because they where naive and gullible and thought they could trust the banking elite not to sell them shit.

      Tim Ellis doesn’t seem to understand that our banking elite does not have strong financial management skills because if they had we would not be up shit creek without a peddle while a financial tsunami is coming our way caused by the selfsame financial wizards that sold ACC their crappy investment products.

      Silly Tim

      [lprent: Tim is correct in his later comment. As far as I can see there is a disjunction between your comment and the post and the comments. Don’t thread-jack or you’ll wind up viewed like Stan.]

      • Tim Ellis 3.1.1

        Ev, I realise that you have very strong opinions, Ev, and I am trying not to be as rude towards you as you are towards me, but there is really no need to address other people like that.

        This post is not about bankers. John Judge is not a banker. He has never worked at Merrill Lynch.

        • Chess Player

          Hey, I just googled “Merrill Lynch Travellerev” and counted over 20 results….

          You do seem to have an ongoing theme, as Tim has pointed out….

          Perhaps it’s just time to move on…

          Cue: Red Rag to Bull

        • Travellerev


          Judge has sat on a board for ANZ and is a member of the Business round table, that makes him suspect in my opinion.

          John Key has had a long working relationship with Merrill Lynch and ML leaked last year that the NZ heath care system would be up for grabs. The fact that they were interested and apparently had insider knowledge makes them suspect.

          Our current financial privately owned system has been run into the ground by every major investment bank including Merrill Lynch and since they sold their crap to organisations such as ACC all of these banks are suspect.

          As for rudeness. You are a manipulative smarmy git and if you don’t like the way I respond to your patronising (extremely rude in my book) quasi “Oh I’m the vicitm of Ev’s rudeness” pleading for sympathy crap than you are politely invited to fuck off. Very politely of course.

          • Tim Ellis


            Judge has sat on a board for ANZ and is a member of the Business round table, that makes him suspect in my opinion.

            Yes I think we’ve established that Ev. Except you conveniently ignore that many other bank directors and former Business Roundtable members have been appointed to boards by various Governments. Given the NZBR’s broad membership, if every NZBR member was excluded from membership of an SOE or crown entity, then there would be very slim pickings indeed.

            If you want to see evidence of a real, actual banker appointed to boards, you can go no further than Sir John Anderson, whom Labour appointed variously to chair TVNZ, and Capital Coast and Hawkes Bay DHBs. Ralph Norris, also a banker and now CEO of the Commonwealth Bank, was appointed a director of Air New Zealand by the Labour Government. At the time, Norris was chairman of the Business Roundtable. This occurred at a time when the Labour Government was nationalising Air New Zealand, rather than privatising it. Norris was then appointed CEO of Air New Zealand by the Labour-appointed Board.

            I don’t see any connection between BRT+Banker=Privatisation.

            John Key has had a long working relationship with Merrill Lynch and ML leaked last year that the NZ heath care system would be up for grabs. The fact that they were interested and apparently had insider knowledge makes them suspect.

            Here you go a long way from the thread of the discussion. To my knowledge, John Judge has no connection with Merrill Lynch. Further, it isn’t correct that ML “leaked that the NZ health care system would be up for grabs”. It was an opinion briefing to their clients, and related specifically to ACC. As for whether this was “insider knowledge”, it was hardly such, since National has had a policy of opening ACC’s work account up to competition since the 1990s, when it actually implemented its policy during the 1998 reforms.

            I’m sorry you see me as patronising Ev, but if you’re going to make wild accusations it helps to get your facts straight.

        • Snail

          Tim Ellis,

          notwithstanding your pertinent point re the thread I’m using this reply button to suggest two helpful things.. EV’s link re Mr. Judge very clearly illustrates that he was a banker.. or official with ANZ.

          Additionally modern banks such as the ANZ use hedge funds to raise their ‘deposits and stuff’ returns. Merrill Lynch, formerly an investment bank solely, was all too often (perhaps commonly, regularly, says this better) the counterparty provider for such deals. As well as being hedge fund managers.

          Well, we might ask how this is relevant to Mr Judge…humn. IMO we should overlook Minister Smith’s citing of his acumen in respect of expectations for a more “secure financial” management. Bankers code for certain and specific dealings that ACC has not been party to, hitherto.

          That said, important would be public disclosure to effect transparency and accountability, as I am sure you would want to see.

  4. Janet 4

    Thanks Standard for being a long time crusader to save ACC.
    Just wait until some of those enthusiastic privatisers have family members who have serious self-inflicted accidents (such as through skiing or smashing up their flash cars) but they are insufficiently covered by their private insurers (or the private insurers have gone bust) for the hugely expensive treatment currently provided by ACC, such as rehab, house modifications, ongoing medical care, income protection etc.. They will squeal.

  5. Clarke 5

    This pretty much says it all – it looks like an edit of ACC’s TV ads:

  6. ieuan 6

    This discussion seems to miss one very important question, how are we going to pay for ACC?

    There are only really two options, increase the levies or reduce the coverage.

    The question of privatisation is just a smoke screen.

    • Tim Ellis 6.1

      That’s exactly right, ieuan. There is a third option to reducing coverage and increasing levies. That is to delay fully-funding the scheme, which Labour pretty much has forced the government to do because they dragged their feet on fully-funding. Effectively this is the equivalent to a debt-raising device as it passes the cost of current accidents onto future levy-payers. It is the exact opposite of the philosophy behind the establishment of the Super Fund to partially off-set the future cost of superannuation on future taxpayers.

      Some aspects of the ACC scheme are world-class. Many aspects of our current ACC scheme are simply gold plated, and in my view, some of the non-work related entitlements just aren’t affordable for an economy of New Zealand’s size.

      • Matthew Pilott 6.1.1

        Where should the money have come from for fully funding the scheme? Maybe it would be sensible for National to cancel those tax cuts in order to do so, if not fully funding ACC isn’t ok – after all, you’re saying Labour was dragging their feet, yet nNational’s doing exactly the same.

        You’re trying to paint Labour not fully funding as the reason there’s a problem, yet to solve the problem, it’s ok for National to not fully fund ACC.

        The real answer to the funding shortfall is to look at whether the losses are operational, or were caused by the ACC fund declining in value with respect to ACC liabilities due to a general collapse in the global market.

        To say this is due to “what appears to be an unnecessary level of risk in its investment scheme” is a bit far-fecthed, Tim. Have you got any evidence that their investment was unnecessarily ricky? It’s not like ACC lost all their money by investing in Blue Chip apartments or Bridgecorp. I doubt there were any unnecessary risks taken – you take any degree of risk and some years that risk will be realised, others it won’t.

        New Zealand just has to suffer through the bad luck that the risk is being realised when we have a National government, who choose to ignore the fact that it is a short term loss, and are choosing to make us all pay for it now when it’s clear that a normal asset/liability ratio will be returned when the markets rebound (if you’re inclined to believe this will happen). Even with the funding shortfall that was not disclosed before the election, I don’t imagine Labour would be making people pay extra for ACC out of spite, since they’re not out to foster a dislike for the system.

        • Tim Ellis


          Interesting and thoughtful points.

          Where should the money have come from for fully funding the scheme?

          I believe it should come from levy-payers. Motor vehicle users pay for the motor vehicle account, employers pay for the work account, salary and wage earners pay for the earners’ account. The only taxpayer subsidy is for the non-earners account (essentially children, beneficiaries and superannuitants). It goes without saying that the Government will have to pick up the tab for increased costs in the non-earners account. I think we are on very dangerous territory for the taxpayer to start subsidising other accounts.

          Maybe it would be sensible for National to cancel those tax cuts in order to do so, if not fully funding ACC isn’t ok – after all, you’re saying Labour was dragging their feet, yet nNational’s doing exactly the same.

          The move to a fully-funded model began in 1998. The legislation gave ACC fourteen years to implement a fully-funded scheme. During almost all this time, we’ve had a Labour government. We are far behind where we should be in having a fully-funded model. I think it’s fair and reasonable to criticise Labour for that.

          You’re trying to paint Labour not fully funding as the reason there’s a problem, yet to solve the problem, it’s ok for National to not fully fund ACC.

          I haven’t argued that it’s not okay to have a non-fully funded scheme. A fully-funded scheme is honest and transparent, and doesn’t pass the cost of current accidents onto future levy-payers. By not fully-funding the scheme it allows politicians to parade about claiming that we have a wonderful, world-class scheme that is inexpensive, without pointing out that we only have this scheme because we’re passing the bill on to future generations.

          To say this is due to “what appears to be an unnecessary level of risk in its investment scheme’ is a bit far-fecthed, Tim. Have you got any evidence that their investment was unnecessarily ricky?

          Yes. ACC changed its investment criteria to require its portfolio to deliver higher risk returns. This has directly led to much more dramatic losses than a lower-risk portfolio managed by, say, Tower.

          The investment criteria is only part of the problem. The other major factor is dramatically increased entitlements due to governments increasing entitlements, particularly around sensitive claims and psychological trauma to name just a couple. Effectively by doing this the ACC have been loaded with costs that otherwise should have been incurred by the health system.

          Even with the funding shortfall that was not disclosed before the election, I don’t imagine Labour would be making people pay extra for ACC out of spite, since they’re not out to foster a dislike for the system

          Matthew, Labour knew about the shortfalls across multiple ACC accounts, yet went into the election promising lower levies and claiming National would privatise the ACC scheme. That was totally dishonest on both counts.

          • Matthew Pilott

            Tim, agreed that ACC should be paid for by those who recieve the benefits, and also by those who incur the risks. That’s not the full picture, though, is it?

            There are liabilities that pre-date the point at which ACC was intended to be fully-funded. ACC doesn’t run a short-term model of balancing assets and liabilities over a period of time such as a financial year. The ACC fund is the vehicle to fund those liabilities, and will, eventually, make ACC fully funded.

            Labour did not put enough money in to build this capital, and National’s doing the same. If you’re going to blame Labour for a problem, you might as well criticise National for taking actions to prolong that problem. Or you can recognise that it’s not a problem as you’re trying to make it out to be.

            If the markets had performed well, this would not be a problem – National knows this but doesn’t want us to, because it wants to blame ACC to reduce the public perception of ACC.

            Labour knows it but unfortunately ‘explaining is losing’ and the media isn’t interested in examining the cause of the funding shortfall, or national’s flawed remedy.

            I admit I wasn’t aware of a change in ACC fund investment policy but if that’s the case then you are right, they would be in a worse situation by pursuing a higher growth/high risk (not ‘rick’, sorry ianmac!) investment strategy. Unfortunately, ACC, like the rest of the world, is vulnerable to a global recession. Interestingly, some low-risk investments such as those under ING didn’t prove to be that safe.

            Name for me a single National MP who you believe thinks a privatised insurance system, or the right to sue, wouldn’t be better than a fully Public compensation scheme. I’ll then point to the rest of them, who would take the same action Smith has – deliberately lump unnecessary costs onto New Zealanders in order to foster a dislike of ACC. You only need to look at their statements and press releases on the issue to see it.

            Labour wasn’t dishonest on that count, nor were they dishonest by saying they’d reduce levies. Extend the date to fully fund ACC, and you don’t need to raise them – you only do it if you’re National, would prefer a Private system and want to make people dislike ACC – that’s also why National is using crude and misleading scare tactics such as saying what the increases to levies would need to be to fully fund ACC and all its liabilities right now, including funding the losses in the ACC fund.

          • Tim Ellis

            Matthew, Nick Smith in Parliament yesterday repeated that his government is fully committed to the principles of the ACC scheme.

            The Government’s plans aren’t to dump extra costs onto ACC. Rather the Government’s plans are to accurately describe what the actual costs of the current system are. That is a far cry from Labour promising lower levies before the election, knowing full well that even to maintain existing entitlements would require a substantial blow out in costs.

          • Matthew Pilott

            I don’t believe Nick Smith, I’m sorry to say. If you believe in the principles of ACC, then why go on National TV saying it’s not really a $1bn shortfal that levies will need to cover, but a $10bn one (“and we’ll have to try and get out of this mess somehow”), when it’s obviously nothing of the sort. That doesn’t strike me as a belief in, or committment to the principles of ACC.

            We’ll have to agree to disagree there, Tim, because with they way they’re scaremongering there’s no way you’ll convince me they’re not trying to foster a negative attitude upon ACC.

            The shortfalls don’t have to be countered by levy increases. Therefore it is not dishonest to campaign with a goal of reducing levies. Did Labour state National will privatise ACC and do so in the first term? If not, then that’s hardly dishonest either. There’s scant evidence to contradict that statement – and I believe National would if they got the chance – that’s why you wouldn’t be able to name a National MP who would prefer ACC over a private system, or a return to suing.

        • Ianmac

          Matthew: Well said post. (And I love your new word “ricky”. Much more evocative than “risky” 🙂

    • Snail 6.2

      howse about capping costs.. not one to victimize but physio’s can charge a heap.. maybe they… others… could take a leaf out of the paycut takers’ model for statrters.. and get real (for longer term prospects) on Recessionary consequences for users and communities..

  7. cocamc 7

    Exactly. National is working on fixing the problems left by the previous Government. and rather than admit that it is a mess the Labour party is just seeking to, as you say, smoke screen using words like privatisation

  8. Janet 8

    Even by increasing levies It’s a much cheaper scheme than any a private company could provide. Look at how much you pay for car insurance (for a maximum pay out of a few thousand). For a smaller levy you get literally millions of dollars of ACC support over a life time should you need it. One of the reasons the expenses have gone up is that medical advances in the area of rehab (such as standing wheelchairs) are now much better but also more expensive.

    But it is still a lot cheaper and fairer than any other scheme in the world. In fact a general disability levy (ie tax) could be a way of ensuring that those with similar needs can get the support ACC provides to those injured by accident.

  9. BLiP 9

    Here it comes – John Key starting to pay back his mates. Bewildered New Zealander voters thought: “well, if he can make $50 million without creating anything new or useful, he can do it for the rest of us”. If only they had realised he was pretty much gifted his fortune by his puppet masters who are now looking for a return on their investment.

  10. stan 10

    [lprent: You’re just link-whoring again – which is why you’re remaining in auto-moderation.
    The rest of the comment is unrelated to the post or the comments – it is just a troll line.
    The idea about a comments section is to contribute to the debate on the post. It isn’t a place to just dump graffiti.
    BTW: Could you make an attempt to actually spell check your comments. ]

  11. Santi 11

    “You do seem to have an ongoing theme…”

    The inimitable Dutch Einstein strikes again!

  12. Iprent,

    The title of the post was “what are they hiding”.

    Eddy choose the title as an indication that there are things happening which seem arranged by amongst others:

    1 A small group of insiders (Business round table).
    2 A group known for it’s aggressive stance against the ACC.
    3 A group who has close connections to international round tables and the
    international finance world.

    It seems that Eddy is hinting at the fact that a small group of people in high places have been predetermining a policy for this country and their are executing this policy through the use of “Urgency”, Shock announcements, draconian law changes and spending cuts.

    The fact that as Tim points out a lot of these insiders have been or are still part of the finance world is telling in and of itself.

    I was merely pointing out that there is a bigger picture. The dismantling of the ACC is no an out of the blue event and neither is it an isolated case of bad financial judgement on the part of the ACC management. It is part of a global speculative investment structure which is now faltering and collapsing and the demise of the ACC only a small and insignificant side effect of the global financial collapse.

    The appointment of a man who in his professional capacity was linked to ANZ whether as a banker or in a management capacity is neither here nor there and who is a member of a small coterie of business people known for their anti ACC sentiments is just another step in a predetermined plan with a predetermined outcome.

    Added to that I point out that Tim by addressing the audience rather than me is manipulating and patronising.

    Just think how you would feel if someone said in reaction to something you wrote Iprent seems to think….. rather than Iprent you seem to think. Its a classic debating trick to ridicule and shut up and I can’t believe you fell for it.

    As for me being compared to Stan that is not really fair now is it?

    I don’t have a mainstream opinion but I sure a shit build my cases with solid research and links to relevant information.

    You may not like what I say but I don’t say things without backing them up nor do I troll.

    Added to that I use a spell checker.

    Now Santi on the other hand…

    • Tim Ellis 12.1

      The fact that as Tim points out a lot of these insiders have been or are still part of the finance world is telling in and of itself.

      If there is a conspiracy Ev, then Labour is in on it, since they have appointed many NZBR members and bankers to government boards.

      • Travellerev 12.1.1

        Quit possibly.

        It was after al Lange who signed the Reserve bank act of 1989 effectively giving control over our currency to an unelected body of bankers.

        Don Brash was the Governor who prepared the act if I’m not mistaken.
        But that was all for the best we were told because that way our elected officials could not manipulate the electorate with money and what do the common people know about money anyway. No, for that we needed specialists. “Money specialists”. LOL.

        I think it was Rothschild who said: “Give me the right to print money and I care not who makes the laws.”

        Funny that.

  13. Tim Ellis 13

    I’m afraid that isn’t true either Ev. Currency movements are generally a function of interest rate movements and relative confidence in the value of the economies. Pretty much every open economy in the world has a tradeable and market-based currency, generally openly floated. The Reserve Bank only determines interest rates, which in turn have a degree of effect on currency rates.

    The Governor of the Reserve Bank isn’t appointed or answerable to international banks. He reports to and is accountable to the Minister of Finance. Don Brash served a number of both Labour and National Ministers of Finance while he was governor. Since the RBA, no Minister of Finance from either Labour or National has attempted to significantly change the Act.

    Well before the RBA there were dramatic movements in the NZD. The move to an open, floating currency was well before the RBA.

  14. Brett T 14

    Lets make one thing clear!, it`s not the claimants fault ACC is going down the gurgler, its the idiot suits at the top of the pile and their stinking investment mentality!

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