Key “didn’t deliberately intend” to abuse power

It’s been established as un-denied fact that Prime Minister John Key pulled a cafe waitress’ hair on a number of occasions.

Key has apologised for it, and has said it was “very very silly”, but has denied he misused his power. He has said it was the opposite, he was trying to put people at ease in an informal setting.

From a Thursday report on 3 News – Key’s hair-pulling raises behaviour questions:

Mr Key has publicly apologised to waitress Amanda Bailey, 26, for persistently pulling her ponytail while visiting her Auckland cafe over the last six months.

The embarrassing apology was prompted by Ms Bailey’s contribution to the left-wing Daily Blog website yesterday, in which she accused the Prime Minister of harassing and bullying her.

At first she believed it was playful – Mr Key sometimes pretended it was his wife Bronagh who did it – but she then informed Mr Key’s security that one day she would snap and punch him in the face.

Mr Key mocked her when she raised it personally with him and it left her crying frustrated tears because she felt tormented and powerless, she said.

When quizzed by reporters at Los Angeles Airport, Mr Key said he had been joking around with the waitress.

“There’s always lots of horsing around and sort of practical jokes and that’s all there really was to it,” he said.

The media has had limited access to Key as he was travelling to Gallipoli. On Friday 3 News reported:

Mr Key admitted misreading the situation and says he understands why it’s causing concern.

“When these things play out later on they look a lot more serious, people take other readings from it and I understand that and I take responsibility for that,” he told reporters when he arrived in Turkey today for the Gallipoli centenary commemorations.

“I’m pretty casual and laid-back … playing along a little bit, and that’s very, very silly on my part… I should have read the situation more accurately. I’ll learn from the experience.”

So he has conceded he was at fault and it had been “very, very silly on my part”.

It doesn’t appear to be online but on 3 News last night Key explained further, in response to a question from Patrick Gower:

Gower: When you accepted you got it wrong, do you accept that you misused your power?

Key: No, because I didn’t deliberately intend to do that, it was the opposite. I intended to try and be in a much more informal sort of setting so that I put people at ease and we could have a bit of a laugh and have a bit of fun so it’s really opposite.

But I accept that that’s an interpretation that someone could get.

News reader: Key said in the cold light of day he accepts what he thought what was kidding around did not seem that funny later.

This may be played on The Nation this morning.

There have been many claims of abuse of power, sexual abuse, misogyny and bullying.These seem to be overstating the situation at best.

The effect of Key’s actions is in part of bullying but his explanation sounds reasonable, bullying wasn’t his intent, it was inadvertent. He was trying  to be an ordinary person goofing around.

But as Prime Minister he can never be seen totally as an ordinary person. Key will always have a non-ordinary status, no matter how hard he tried to be seen otherwise.

And he accepts that he went too far, and accepts that what he did could be seen as an abuse of power.

As has been said before one person’s buffoon can be another person’s arsehole, and a recidivist buffoon can become an arsehole.

Key appears to get this.

This has been embarrassing for Key, it has caused some people to see him differently and it may have an ongoing impact on him and his popularity.

It’s an easy avenue of ridicule and it’s certain be used as a persistent means of attack by some opponents.

But unless something else is revealed, or if court action succeeds (experts have said that’s unlikely), it shouldn’t do any further damage.

Another story has emerged out of this, how some left wing activists have played the story. That will be covered in the next post.

Armstrong: “That must surely be to his political cost”

John Armstrong sums things up fairly well in PM’s behaviour ‘fun and games’ – pull the other one.

In the Court of King John, someone needs to tell the Prime Minister when he is behaving like a jerk.

Someone in John Key’s inner circle needs to take the traditional jester’s role of being the fool who can tell the sovereign he is a fool when everyone else is too obsequious, too obliging or too deferential to do so.

It would also be a good idea to suggest to the Prime Minister that he gets his pigtail fetish under control.

No one prepared to tell him to pull his head in (or pull his hand in) when it’s obviously advisable.

It goes without saying that Key’s repeated pulling of the hair of a waitress at an Auckland cafe he frequents was utterly inappropriate.

His claim that the “horsing around” was all meant to be light-hearted and part of the “fun and games” at the cafe does not wash. That is an excuse for something for which there is no excuse.

Despite the efforts of some here there is no excuse.

At the end of the day, any contact that a Prime Minister has with anyone involves a power relationship where the power is all or almost all weighted on one side.

That is just the nature of Key’s job. But many people find that intimidating and would feel powerless to act if they were likewise so harassed, as the waitress felt she was.

Key’s inappropriate behaviour put the waitress in a very uncomfortable and difficult situation.

Has she over-reacted? That doesn’t matter. Key overstepped boundaries repeatedly. He brought the repercussions on himself.

One reason why Key is so popular is that he has sought to cut through the barrier between Prime Minister and public by being approachable, never talking down to people no matter their status, and never letting his high approval ratings go to his head.

That is why people reading the waitress’ account of the hair-pulling will wince. They will find the whole episode odd, cringe-making and seemingly very much out of character for Key. His sending the waitress a couple of bottles of pinot noir from the Otago vineyard he part owns as an apology will be seen as equally crass.

From what I’ve seen there’s been a lot of genuine wincing.

Giving her wine may have seemed like a good way to express regret at what he did but what did he expect – that she get drunk and forget about what had happened?

While his behaviour is also a function of the kind of self-delusional belief in one’s invincibility that infects all politicians the longer they are in power, Key basically crossed a line between informality and over-familiarity.

His punishment is to be left squirming and stewing under a huge pile of embarrassment, including copious quantities generated by international media coverage.

Despite diversions and denials from many on the right – see Kiwiblog full of excuses and blame diversion – this is embarrassing for Key and the country.

the worry for Key and National is that this unseemly episode is of such magnitude and as something that forces people to take a position could severely jolt positive perceptions of Key, especially among female voters who flocked to National after he became leader.

David Cunliffe got into trouble for apologising for being a man. The Prime Minister has been forced to apologise for failing to be the man most people thought he was. That must surely be to his political cost.

There will be a political cost.

Standard poll reaction – the people are comatose

Reaction from the Labour left to the latest poll is blaming people for being asleep, to the extent of a comatose conspiracy.

Last week’s One News Colmar Brunton poll suggests that little has changed in national support:

  • National 49%
  • Labour 31%
  • Greens 9% (down 1)
  • NZ First 7% (up 1)

So after all the hype and hope after Northland Labour and the Greens have gained nothing – which shouldn’t be surprising, they sought nothing in Northland and have been quiet politically since..

Initial reaction to the poll at The Standard last night, first from Anne:

Have you noticed ianmac there has been virtually no political news since the byelection? The MSM has gone dead quiet. To my knowledge Andrew Little has only been ‘allowed’ one spot on the 6pm TV news since that time. Nobody from the Greens have had a look in.. to anything.

Out of sight and out of mind? I think so.

Political news from all parties was quiet over the polling period with the Easter break dominating. But Anne’s knowledge is deficient. Looking at One News:

Andrew Little featured in all of those items. The polling period was 11-15 April.

‘Paul’ can’t believe the country doesn’t notice something.

So NZ is still sound asleep.
Unbelievable.

So Anne plays the grand conspiracy card:

They are now in a politically comatose state – as planned.

That card is well worn. The Joker isn’t worth anything in this game.

And this morning ‘Notices and Features’ (the author that doesn’t want to be known as an author) has posted:

No significant changes in yesterdays TV1 / Colmar Brunton poll, with National unchanged on 49%, Labour unchanged on 31%, and all changes within the margin of error.

Certain Nats have started counting their chickens for a fourth term!

Yes, there’s a bit of that at Kiwiblog in comments on Latest poll. But looking at opponents is ignoring one’s own predicament.

And Paul continues his disbelief here:

Northland bridges.
International Milk prices.
Housing bubbles
Iraq.
Child Poverty
The TPPA
The attack on Campbell Live
Clear and present warnings from economists that NZ’s economy is vulnerable.

And 49% of NZ is still sound asleep.
Unbelievable

It’s the people’s fault. If only they would wake up and see how awful National are and marvellous the Labour-Green-NZ First fantasy is.

Whateva next?

It is, and I don’t believe that 49% of the country akshully think that National are any good.
questions can be asked to produce desired answers, just like Key can find a lawyer or a scientist to say whatever he wants.

Questions like “If a general election was held today, would you be eligible to vote?” – whatever next, perhaps wanting a question like “Do you support the fantastic Labour Party over the lying corrupt National Party?

But Paul seems to think it’s Colmar Brunton who are lying and corrupt:

Maybe they just ask property owning Aucklanders, with good savings and therefore no reliance on a thriving NZ economy. These same people must also be either unaware or don’t care about the rest of the issues mentioned.

And Sanctuary tries facts…

Time to face facts – we’ve psychologically become a third world country, where the top half of the population dominates the media and has given up even caring about the bottom half, and the bottom half have slipped into invisibility and inertia.

…with no evidence of any actual facts.

It takes a righty to suggest reality – Matthew Hooton:

For a govt to change, the incumbent needs to look arrogant, dodgy, corrupt, out of touch, out of ideas, or a combination of these; and the challenger needs to look attractive and competent.

National is doing it’s bit for a change of govt even if Labour is not!

The degree of disillusionment, despondency and dissing at the Labour left Standard does the opposite of making the challenger look attractive and competent.

Green leadership contenders

There’s been no more nominations for the male co-leader position vacated by Russel Norman so there will four contenders:

  • Kevin Hague
  • Gareth Hughes
  • James Shaw
  • Vernon Tava

I think the leading contenders will be Hague – experienced and reliable – versus a contrasting new hope for the future, James Shaw.

My pick is the safer option, Hague. Shaw’s time will come – he had initially said he wouldn’t stand this time due to only being an MP for a few months but changed his mind.

Tava has some interesting ideas but with no chance of being an MP for the next two and a half years, and has said he doesn’t know if he will stand for the Green list in 2017, so I don’t think he has much chance.

Hughes may appeal to some Greens with his ‘do what members choose’ approach but his reliance on ‘hey Clint; guidance must count against him, ultimately people like leaders who are prepared to lead.

There’s been just one nomination for the female co-leader position. Metiria Turei has tweeted:

Whew! Reckon my chances are pretty good…

But she points out there’s still a vote:

Yep.  We have a no confidance option for delegates who dont want to vote for me (or any candidate)

I don’t know if the vote is made public but I’d expect Greens to avoid controversy over Turei being elected without a solid endorsement.

The voting will be done at the Green AGM on 30 May so that’s another 6 weeks in leadership limbo with Norman phasing out.

And Turei has had a low profile over the last month, maybe contemplating her own future, maybe not wanting to dominate the leadership as Norman fades away.

Bridges too far?

Did Simon Bridges got to far in seeking cost details on Northland bridges?

Mr Bridges’ office asked the NZ Transport Agency for information on the bridges and estimated costs of upgrading them prior to the byelection announcement that National would upgrade 10 one-way bridges.

Andrew Little thinks he did.

Labour’s leader Andrew Little said that was a clear breach of the rules for ministers’ use of public officials and Mr Bridges should be sacked.

John Key thinks he didn’t.

Mr Key said he did not believe it was a breach.

“My understanding is it’s quite okay to ask for information. You’re quite free to do that. The issue is whether you’ve got policy advice and Mr Bridges didn’t do that.”

The Cabinet Manual seems unclear.

The Cabinet Manual states that “any requests [ministers] make for advice or information from their officials is for the purposes of their portfolio responsibilities and not for party political purposes”.

Bridges would be responsible for fulfilling the bridges bribe so should be basing decisions on advice and information. Many policy decisions can be both part of Governance and for party political purposes – trying to get re-elected.

Anthony Robins at The Standard thinks it’s clear in Burn the Cabinet Manual:

Key won’t take any action over Simon Bridges’ clear breach (excellent work by Rob Salmond at Polity) of the Cabinet Manual. So, might as well burn the thing, at least for the remainder of this government’s term. Key has no intention of being held to account, or holding his ministers to account, by or for anything at all.

Did Helen Clark and Michael Cullen get advice and information before making their famous election rescuing Student Loan bribe? Was any Minister sacked as a result of that? I’m sure there are numerous examples of advice or information from officials being used for election (party political) purposes.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog calls it A beltway beltway issue.

I don’t believe that anything Simon Bridges did, is a breach of the Cabinet Manual. But regardless this is what you call a classic beltway issue. The number of people who get excited over this is miniscule. Mrs Jones in New Plymouth and Mr Smith in Hamilton want jobs, incomes, decent schools, good healthcare etc.

The sort of people who think this is great politics are the same sort who orgasm over who won question time in the House. I know, because I used to be one of them.

Ecch. But he may have a point, no matter how awfully he has put it.

In comments yesterday on Your NZ Alan Wilkinson commented:

This is b.s. If a Government makes a promise before a by-election it has to implement it and therefore it has to cost it responsibly and accurately.

Totally different to before a general election when it may not be reelected. No matter what the Cabinet manual says the Minister was making a promise in his ministerial capacity which he would have to implement and therefore fund.

Just to add the obvious corollary to this, in a by-election if the Cabinet Manual rule were to be applied it would mean the Government’s opponents in the by-election would be free to promise anything they wished and the Government’s candidate would be unable to promise anything new. Farcical nonsense. It shows exactly how incompetent or biased MSM journalism is that this is not pointed out and the opposition’s arguments rubbished.

There might turn out to be some sort of technical breach of the Cabinet Manual but Alan’s comments make sense to me.

Flipper at Kiwiblog:

The closest that anyone has comes to the true worth of “The Cabinet Manual”: is Helen Clark. She amended “it” to suit each circumstance…and to her benefit.

The reality is that the manual is just a collection of “thou shalt nots” (well if it suits the PM), and “:thou shalls”. It has no stranding in law because it is not backed (compiled pursuant to) by a statute. Many matters upon which it offers guidance may well (probably are) covered by Statute. At best the manual is a collection of Executive fiats.

Back to the instigator of the beat-up to far, Rob Salmond at Polity, who responded to Farrar’s post in The “beltway” response:

By “acted in a political way,” of course, he means “breached the rules of his office.” Also, good luck passing off the actual job of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, to hold the government to account for its actions, as “crying wah wah.”

I agree about Mrs Jones and Mr Smith, though. This is not an election defining issue. I’m guessing Labour’s 2017 election campaign won’t have much to do with this issue, in the same way National’s 2008 campaign didn’t say too much about Taito Philip Field.

The thing about so-called “beltway” issues is that they aren;t much good at election time in their own right, but if a number of similar issues emerge around a government then it forms a more general impression which does matter in elections. That was how National used Field. In National’s case, that general impression might be “arrogant” or “liars” or “duplicitous” or “corrupt.” They’re certainly handing out plenty of material…

So Salmond doesn’t seem to think think this is much of a big deal but is trying to chip away at National’s credibility.

Rob would help his own credibility on this if he didn’t try and compare what Simon Bridges did with what Taito Philip Field – Field was charged with “15 counts of bribery and 25 of attempting to pervert the course of justice”.

Field was jailed for six years on corruption charges, with the sentencing judge saying his offending threatened the foundation of democracy and justice.

Likening this to Bridges going too far seeking Ministerial information and advice looks like a beat-up too far.

Polity on Northland bridges ‘scandal’

Rob Salmond has been doing a lot of work on OAI requests and writing up the results in a series of posts at Polity. If he turns out to be on target with this then a Simon Bridges risks collapsing.

Polity posts:

Northland bridges – OIA scandal (1 of 3)

The paper trail behind National’s disastrous Ten Bridges bribe in Northland is almost comic in how damning it is of Ministers Bridges and English. Here’s the OIA I got back recently from the New Zealand Transport Agency. (Reply, briefing 1, briefing 2, email 1, email 2, email 3)

In this post I address whether or not getting advice from officials took place, and whether it was allowable for this promise, billed by National as a National Party promise.

Northland bridges – OIA scandal (2 of 3)

Overnight, I have received Simon Bridges’ version of events in relation to his abuse of public officials over the Northland bridge bribe.

Hilariously, he claims that the trail of increasingly panicked emails from NZTA officials about the costs of upgrading single lane bridges in Northland had nothing at all to do with National’s promise one working day later to upgrade several single lane bridges in Northland. I’m serious. That’s his actual story.

Northland bridges – OIA scandal (3 of 3)

Following from my earlier posts, readers may recall that one bridge in particular among National’s awful ten bridges bribe got a lot of stick – the Darby and Joan Kauri Bridge.

First, two-laning that bridge got some stick because it is completely in the middle of nowhere, on a rarely-driven State Highway connecting two very small population centres.

Cabinet Manual section 6.60

Chapter 6 is about pre-election periods. Here’s paragraph 60 of that chapter:

Before and after an election, the incumbent Ministers should ensure that any requests they make for advice or information from their officials is for the purposes of their portfolio responsibilities and not for party political purposes.

Someone should show this paragraph, along with my timeline of the advice Simon Bridges received from NZTA about replacement of single-lane Northland bridges just before his political party announced a policy to replace some single-lane Northland bridges, to John Key.

Looks like he’s got a clear case of a Minister in breach of the Cabinet Manual.

I’ll leave the arguments to those who know more about these things. The politicians are at odds:

NZ Herald: Minister should be sacked over bridge pledge – Labour

Labour leader Andrew Little says the Prime Minister should sack Transport Minister Simon Bridges over claims Mr Bridges broke ministerial rules in developing the Northland byelection bridges pledge.

TVNZ: John Key stands by Simon Bridges after he’s accused of breaching Cabinet guidelines

Prime Minister John Key says he has no plans to take action against Transport Minister Simon Bridges following claims he may have breached Cabinet guidelines by receiving official advice on his by-election bridge upgrade promises prior to their announcement.

RSA opposes flag change, opposes democratic process

The chief executive of the RSA, David Moger, appears to be leading a campaign against changing the New Zealand flag, and also against the referendum process being used to see if the New Zealand people want a flag change or not.

And he has made some very dubious claims. 3 News reports Flag change opposed by RSA.

The Royal New Zealand RSA says it will fervently oppose changing the New Zealand flag when it appears before a parliamentary committee considering the issue.

RSA chief executive David Moger says the debate is insensitive as it coincides with commemorations of the centenary of the nation’s involvement in World War I.

The timing was dumb.

The RSA would prefer the centenary of Anzac Day be commemorated this month without the distraction of the flag issue.

But Moger is choosing to promte the distraction now.

“For many who’ve served, our current flag is symbolic of the sacred oath they made to protect the peace and security of New Zealand.

“Our men and women made terrible personal sacrifices and we honour their courage and commitment every time our current flag is flown.”

That’s laying on thick with emphasis on the importance of the flag, with no substantiation, and he has excluded any mention of the silver fern. And it’s the fern that is on my Grandfather’s grave, and on my uncle’s grace in Italy – see Silver fern is NZ history.

The RSA has previously expressed its concern about changing the New Zealand flag.

It’s now calling on others to join it in expressing support for the current flag in representation to the committee and local MPs.

In a hard fought for democracy they are free to campaign however they like.

Mr Moger says two referendums are unnecessary and it’s the RSA’s responsibility to lead the charge on behalf of its members and the hundreds of Kiwis who’ve contacted RSAs around the country saying they don’t want the flag to be changed and don’t understand why it’s become such a priority.

Yesterday on TV3 Moger was interviewed by Paul Henry who also strongly opposes a flag change. So Henry didn’t challenge some very dubious claims and exaggerations.

Henry: When we talked about your members, do you have consensus among your members with regard to the flag?

Moger: Oh a very very strong one. Of course with an organisation like ours with over a hundred thousand members there will be one or two who want to see a change and that’s fine, but the vast vast majority, not only of our members but also people who have written to us and contacted us over the recent weeks and months have said “what’s the point of this, why are we doing it, keep the flag” and encouraging us to get into the fight and make sure that we retain the current flag.

I suggested via Twitter that unless it can be substantiated claiming just “one or two” in the @RSA_National support flag change insults members.

Sorry – not our intent. But we are confident we have the support of our membership and the NZ public behind us.

They sound confident. But they don’t provide numbers for their support levels and they are opposing the best way of determining what the public want, a referendum process.

They sound like they oppose democratic process when they don’t want a possible outcome.

Henry: What is it you’re calling for in your submission?

Moger: So we’re asking for people to write to their MPs, and to say please don’t vote for this bill. We have a chance to change it, we have chance to get some common sense into the process, let’s make that change now so we’re asking New Zealanders to write their MP and go to our website and there’s al the process there and some sample letters people can use.

So the RSA is campaigning for MPs to vote against the most democratic process New Zealand people have available, two referendums.

Henry supported this – because he opposes a flag change. And the online item included a link to “the RSA website for more information” – promoting an anti-democratic campaign. This is headlined Fight For Our Flag and states:

We see it as our responsibility, on behalf of all like-minded New Zealanders, to champion our current flag and challenge the costly referendum process established to select an alternative.

They seem to oppose the democratic process. But further down the page they have a bit of a different angle.

Our position on the referendum is clear. If we are to have a referendum at all it should be a simple yes or no to our existing flag.

That still suggests they prefer no referendum (no democratic vote) but if there is to be any vote the process should favour an outcome they want.

Also via Twitter is a dubious claim of support.

Various polls show overwhelming support for flag, incl @CampbellLiveNZ poll where 84% say we don’t need new flag

A self selecting media driven poll is just about the worst sort of support to be promoting. And they oppose the most definitive sort of poll, two referendums.

It’s understandable that a majority in the RSA would oppose a flag change.

It’s concerning that the RSA is actively campaigning against democracy in action.

An awkward aspect of the RSA anti-change campaign – David Moger sounds like he wasn’t born in New Zealand. I wouldn’t normally question this, and (presumably) as a New Zealander he has as much right voice his opinion as anyone on the flag, but on something as fundamental as the flag his non-New Zealand heritage could be flavouring his staunch opposition.

Tracey Martin responds, sort of

Tracey Martin has responded to a post via Twitter with an attack on the messenger and no indication of what she disagreed with.

I had linked to Tracey Martin oblivious to NZ First ironies and contradictions with this tweet:

@TraceyMartinMP may have to step up but appears oblivious to @NZFirst ironies and contradictions

She two days later she replied:

@PeteDGeorge @NZFirst That is because they are neither – you have taken words and twisted them in your head to fit your picture, unfortunate

It’s unfortunate Tracey has chosen a bland attack on the messenger without addressing what she disagrees with.

She may have a point – this direct quote…

Martin says she’s never formally met  Hekia Parata but is critical of the way she treats other MPs.

“We talk about bullying inside of schools; the abuse the Greens take, in particular Hekia and the abuse she gives Metiria [Turei] in te reo most of the time, is bullying we’d never accept inside a classroom and it’s in Parliament.”

…may be more hypocritical rather than ironic or contradictory, given the way Winston Peters acts in and around Parliament.

And maybe it’s not exactly bullying when Peters makes serious accusations against other MPs and often fails to produce any evidence to support his claims.

Tracey can explain what she thinks it is if she chooses. I’ve offered her a right of reply to explain what she disagrees with.

Tax cheats and blog cheats

Anthony Robins makes some unsubstantiated claims in UK Labour to crack down on tax cheats.

Better late than never I guess – in the UK:

Labour pledges huge fines on tax avoiders to raise £7.5bn a year

Labour will declare an immediate, all-out war on tax avoidance and evasion if it wins the 7 May election, pushing emergency laws through parliament designed to raise more than £7.5bn a year.

That should put the cat among some comfortable establishment pigeons.

Here in NZ the Nats spend much more energy pursuing the much smaller problem of benefit fraud.

In support of that claim Robins links to a post of his own at The Standard in 2012 that quotes a study that claims Courts tougher on benefit fraud than tax dodging – study – that study is based on value of the estimated value of fraud, not the number of fraudulent cases.

The numbers tell the story. For tax evaders, the average offending is $270,000, and those found guilty have only a 22 percent, or one-in-five chance, of being jailed.

For welfare fraudsters, the average offending is $70,000, and those found guilty have a 60 percent chance of being jailed.
So is it a case of our courts demonising the poor?

“It highlights the prejudices we have against beneficiaries and that we’re judging them as different because of their work status,” says Sarah Thompson of Auckland Action Against Poverty.

Once discovered benefit fraud is usually much easier to charge for and convict on.

And no attempt is made to consider the chances of paying back fraudulently obtained money, nor is any analysis shown of other charges nor of prior convictions.

Back to yesterday’s post:

That’s consistent with their ideology and purpose, serving the rich at the expense of the poor.

That links to another post by Robins at The Standard, in 2013. It seems consistent with his ideology and purpose, to make ridiculous politically slanted assertions with no real evidence to back them up.

But Labour should follow the UK example and tackle the huge tax avoidance and evasion problem.

Tax avoidance isn’t illegal, but it is lumped in with evasion as if they were the same thing.

But the linked article on Stuff shows the National led Government (with Peter Dunne as Revenue Minister) have been addressing avoidance and have made improvements.

The article, which is also dated (2012) led with dramatics:

Inland Revenue has found only half of wealthy individuals worth more than $50 million each are paying the top personal tax rate, despite Government moves to combat tax avoidance.

There are about 250 New Zealanders with wealth in excess of $50m, deemed “high wealth individuals” by Inland Revenue.

New figures obtained under the Official Information Act show a sample by Inland Revenue of 184 of those individuals, taken between 2009 and 2011, found 49.5 per cent had declared they had earned $70,000 a year or more. The rest declared they earned less. Those who earn more than $70,000 are in the top tax bracket and pay 33 cents tax in the dollar.

But it then showed that compared to under the last Labour Government things have improved.

The figure has fallen slightly from the Inland Revenue’s previous sample, taken between 2001 and 2008, which found 50 per cent declared they earned enough to put them in the top tax bracket. The top tax bracket over that period kicked in at $60,000 and paid 39 cents tax in the dollar.

So has reducing the top tax rate to be closer to the company tax rate reduced how much income fiddling is done?

Concerns about the rich avoiding the top tax rate through income sheltering devices such as family trusts were raised in a 2010 report by the Tax Working Group.

Later that year, the Government took steps to reduce tax sheltering by reducing the top tax rate from 39 per cent to 33 per cent to align it with the tax rate for trusts.

The National took steps to address avoidance.

Council of Trade Unions economist Bill Rosenberg said tax avoidance was a worldwide issue which had led to the loss of more than $3.1 trillion in annual tax revenue.

“If governments internationally, including New Zealand, could do more to track down dodged taxes we might not be facing the degree of financial austerity and government cuts that we are seeing around the world.”

That addresses one of the main problems dealing with tax avoidance – it’s an international problem and very difficult for one small country to do much about it without substantial international co-operation.

Successive governments (including the current National led government and the previous Labour led government) talk about tightening up on tax avoidance and take measures to try and address it.

They also talk about clamping down on tax evasion, and try to take measures to deal with it. And in opposition overstate the lack of action in dealing with it.

And bloggers talk bull, even the more moderate ones like Robins.

He implies that suddenly the UK Labour Party has decided to do something about tax cheating as if it had been ignored in the past.

And he suggests that National have been more lax on tax cheating than Labour Governments. But he makes a very poor and obviously partisan case.

Going by the history of posts that Robins has shown he has an interest in tax evasion and cheating, but he is doing some fact evasion and political cheating.

And if you read the Guardian article on tax cheat election promises in the UK you will see it’s full of bull.

The manifesto will seek to bolster Labour’s damaged economic credibility by focusing heavily on a strategy to “protect the nation’s finances” and will aim to highlight its message that working people should not have to pay more to compensate for tax abuses by the rich.

Labour sources… described the target as ambitious but achievable.

Is achievable believable?

Conservative Treasury minister David Gauke said: “We have taken action as part of our balanced plan to reduce the deficit – clawing back £7bn per year in lost revenue by forcing the wealthy to pay stamp duty on property, making sure bankers pay higher tax rates than their cleaners and ensuring big global companies pay their fair share of tax. And we will go further and claw back another £5bn in the next parliament.”

The Conservatives have already done something about ensuring the rich pay more tax? That doesn’t exactly support the Robins Tory rort message.

Hillary Clinton announces something

Hillary Clinton has apparently announced something. Is anyone surprised?

Is anyone here really interested?

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