The Nation – Judith Collins

Judith Collins was interviewed on The Nation this morning. Their news item generated from the interview:

Transcript:

Lisa Owen: Revenue Minister Judith Collins joins me now. Good morning.

Judith Collins: Good morning, Lisa.

Lisa Owen: Minister, why is it that corporate charities like Sanitarium, some Brethren charities, some iwis don’t pay tax on their income or profits?

Judith Collins: Well, some businesses, you could say, charities running certain businesses, they have to comply with the Charities Act, which was set up in 2003, from memory. And their activities are audited as such by the Charities Services, which is part of the Department of Internal Affairs, which is not my area. But Revenue, certainly, does investigate any instances where they believe people should be paying tax because of either their activities or because they’re not actually really engaged in charitable purposes.

Lisa Owen: Yeah. Do you think that it gives them an unfair advantage? Isn’t it anti-competitive that they’re not paying tax?

Judith Collins: I think it is significantly difficult for a lot of businesses if they’re dealing with any competitor who they believe isn’t paying their fair share of tax. And the problem with these questions is that Revenue doesn’t tell me about any individual cases, and you can imagine why; you wouldn’t really want the Minister of Revenue being involved in deciding who gets to pay tax and who doesn’t and knowing what’s– obviously because there are privacy provisions as well, under the law. But I think one of the issues is if anyone does believe that someone should be paying some tax and they’re not paying it and they’re rorting the system as such, they need to go to the charities.

Lisa Owen: I’m not talking about specific companies when I ask that. I’m talking more generally. But you do have, sort of, Brethren charities who own dairy and kiwifruit enterprises – huge, huge conglomerates – and they’re competing in a market against other businesses.

Judith Collins: Well, it all depends on what the money’s going to. For instance, if profits are going into charitable purposes, which is often religion or education or helping the poor – those are all charitable purposes – then they will obviously be meeting charitable purposes. So it’s a different thing if it’s going into things that are not charitable purposes; then there’s a possible breach of the law, and that means that the Charities Services and the Department of Internal Affairs should be notified.

Lisa Owen: But do you believe that simply spreading your religion or your religious word is enough to warrant a tax break?

Judith Collins: It’s not a matter of me believing it; it is the fact that that is the law.

Lisa Owen: It is the law, yeah.

Judith Collins: It’s been the law since the first Queen Elizabeth.

Lisa Owen: But do you think it’s a good law? Should it be the law?

Judith Collins: Well, let’s put it this way. I mean, I’ve often thought that there’s quite a lot of business that goes through charities, but that is the law. It has been there forever. That would mean that every church that’s involved in things like, for instance, some of the shops that people get– you know, obviously, they sell clothes and sell these other things – that they would then suddenly become subject to tax. We’ve got other things that we can do in tax, and actually, going after charities that are actually complying with the law and using their profits for charitable purposes, which is helping the poor, education, those sorts of things, that’s not the biggest priority I have right at the moment.

Lisa Owen: But what if they’re not doing those things in any great numbers? Because there is no legal requirement for them to give a certain amount of what they make to charity. It’s left up to them, isn’t it?

Judith Collins: Well, no, there’s the Charities Services part of the Department of Internal Affairs. And Inland Revenue tell me – and I believe them – that they are almost religious, actually, in their wish to get in every cent of tax dollars that they believe they should be getting in, and they work very closely with Charitable Services in Department of Internal Affairs to do that. So just because someone is operating a charity doesn’t mean to say every part of their business activities is tax-free because some of that money may be going for non-charitable purposes.

Lisa Owen: Right. But for example, I mean, there’s all sorts of ones that fall under the category of charities. Church of Scientology – their return for 2015, they brought in income of almost $2.5 million; grants paid out within New Zealand – zero. Another one – Salvation Army, by comparison, paid out $30 million in evangelical programmes, $57 million in community and training job programmes, $35 million in social and health programmes. You know, those are stark comparisons. And here we’ve got an iwi, Ngai Tahu – $533 million income; grants paid out in New Zealand – $12 million in the same year. So are all these charities created equal in terms of what they’re doing and the breaks that they’re eligible for?

Judith Collins: Well, I think, quite clearly, that not all are doing exactly the same as each other. But the fact is that if there are concerns, then the right people to go to are Charitable Services, the Department of Internal Affairs, which is another minister’s portfolio.

Lisa Owen: So you’re fine with how the law stands at the moment?

Judith Collins: No, I say that is the law, and at the moment, I’ve got other things that I’m doing.

Lisa Owen: But do you think it needs to be reviewed?

Judith Collins: I think it’s something that is clearly in a lot of people’s radar at the moment, but right at the moment, my big issues are dealing with things like child support but also dealing with things like multinational companies. That’s where my focus is right at the moment.

Lisa Owen: OK. And I want to get on to international companies. Australia has changed its rules around charities in 2014, and only income directly related to charitable activities that are paid out, you know, you get a tax break on that. So why couldn’t we just do the same here?

Judith Collins: Well, we don’t just do the same like that in New Zealand. We actually put out discussion documents and things.

Lisa Owen: But we like to be in line with our trading partners, don’t we?

Judith Collins: Well, in some cases. We have a very open tax system, and ours is much more simple than many other countries’, including our trading partners. We have a lot of trading partners. But in terms of the charities thing, it is certainly something that Charitable Services and Revenue look at, and it’s certainly something that I’ve asked for some advice on as to what is actually happening, what are the rules, what’s happening on it. But that’s actually for another time because I’ve got other issues I deal with.

Lisa Owen: OK. So, the advice you asked for, what prompted that? What concerned you that you want to–?

Judith Collins: Oh, because people like yourself– obviously not you personally in this one, but people like yourself who raised the issues. So I think it is important to know the extent of any issues.

Lisa Owen: So you are looking into it?

Judith Collins: Well, no, I’ve asked for some advice on it, and that advice is that at the moment, they don’t believe that it’s such the issue that people might think it is, and that is because they’re working so closely with Charitable Services.

Lisa Owen: So after petrol and multinationals, you might get to it?

Judith Collins: Well, we have to wait and see. I’d have to be back in the role, wouldn’t I, after an election?

Lisa Owen: This week Labour said it’s going to crack down on multinationals not paying their fair share of tax.

Judith Collins: Oh, yeah. Bit late to the party, aren’t they?

Lisa Owen: But does anyone think that’s a bad idea?

Judith Collins: Well, I think we’ve already been doing that. I mean, earlier this year, Steven Joyce and myself released discussion documents on exactly that. And it’s called ‘BEPS’ or base erosion profit-shifting, and that’s some of the stuff that some multinationals have been undertaking in New Zealand and elsewhere.

Lisa Owen: So why aren’t your numbers as good as Labour’s? You’re talking about getting back between $50 million and $100 million a year over a period of time. Their projections are $200 million a year.

Judith Collins: Well, actually, it’s wrong, because the figure of $100 million was put in the budget for this budget year, and, of course, most of our measures that we’ve been consulting on and which I’ll be taking to– Steven and I will be taking to Cabinet in the next little while – we are looking for an announcement within the next month or so – those are obviously spread out over the next couple of years. So we will get to– we believe we will get to at least $300 million.

Lisa Owen: OK. So, diverted profits tax.

Judith Collins: Yes.

Lisa Owen: Why not have that? And I know you say we don’t like to follow all our trading partners.

Judith Collins: No, we don’t.

Lisa Owen: But you have said that we do like to be in line with some of our trading partners. And Australia has introduced a tax like this. The UK’s got one. We’re out of step, aren’t we?

Judith Collins: No, we’re actually in-step with the rest of the OECD. And in fact, recently I signed us up to a multilateral instrument, which is basically a massive treaty with 67 other countries – and I think now about 70; some more have added on to it now, over 70 – where we have actually signed up to a lot of the measures to actually deal with this very issues. Diverted profits tax is a very draconian measure. It basically says if we think you are doing anything to shift your tax liability, we’re just going to stick a 40% tax on what we think you should be paying. Now, that is a pretty harsh measure, which might sound great, but even Labour are saying they’re not expecting much of it. Australia are saying that they’re expecting–

Lisa Owen: So you’re ruling it out totally?

Judith Collins: No, Australia are saying that they’re expecting $100 million. In their size of their economy, you know, five, six times our size, we believe we can do better with what we’re doing – following the OECD and working with other countries. Because this is all around things like–

Lisa Owen: So we’re definitely not going to do it.

Judith Collins: No, no. What we’ve said is that we’re not ruling it out, but what we’re not doing is rushing into it. We believe we can get pretty much the same result or even better working with the OECD and working with all these other countries. Just imagine if Revenue decided that we were going to add this massive tax on to everything else that people have and then other countries…

Lisa Owen: You’re saying it will scare business away because other countries are not?

Judith Collins: …did the same to our companies. We are an exporting nation; we need to be very careful how we do these things. And what we don’t want to do is end up with a situation where we’re considered to be a difficult and dangerous place for businesses to operate in.

Lisa Owen: So are you not holding them to account simply because you fear retaliation?

Judith Collins: No. I’m holding them to account, but we think we can get a far better outcome working with the OECD, which, after all, when you’ve got 70-odd countries signed up to it all working together– And when you’re dealing with that, that’s a much stronger position, we believe, than simply adding on another tax, which we may never be able to collect.

Lisa Owen: OK. We talked earlier in the interview about being returned to government and what portfolio you might have.

Judith Collins: Well, who knows?

Lisa Owen: So let’s imagine for a minute that National gets a fourth term.

Judith Collins: That would be great.

Lisa Owen: What’s your dream portfolio?

Judith Collins: Whatever I’m given, actually.

Lisa Owen: Oh, come on. You’re more ambitious than that, aren’t you, Mrs Collins?

Judith Collins: I’ve actually always been very happy to be a minister in a National-led government. And every portfolio I’ve had, I’ve loved every one of them. And, you know, tax is something I just love, the Revenue area, I love the energy and resources, the ethnic communities – these are all really important. And as a former tax lawyer, I’m happy as anything in there.

Lisa Owen: So you don’t think you’ve got more to offer? There’s not more ambition? You’re number 15 in…

Judith Collins: I’ll tell you what, number 15 in government is a lot better than number 3 or 4 in opposition. I can tell you that, Lisa.

Lisa Owen: But is number 6, 7 and 8 in government better than number 15?

Judith Collins: Oh, look, you just do the role.

Lisa Owen: Are you more ambitious than that, minister? I mean, you were tagged as a future prime minister.

Judith Collins: By others. But my view is this – that just being in government and being able to actually do the best we can for New Zealanders is much better than saying where you’re ranked or whatever. I know some people get very excited about that. I’m not excited about that. I don’t get excited about that…

Lisa Owen: OK, so happy to stay where you are

Judith Collins: …because it doesn’t make any difference in terms of your ability to actually do what you have to do.

Lisa Owen: You heard it here – Judith Collins happy to stay where she is.

Judith Collins: I’m always a happy person.

Lisa Owen: All right.

Russian ambassador spoked to Sessions about campaign

The Russian doesn’t like going away for Donald Trump and his administration.

Reuters: Russian envoy overheard saying he discussed campaign with Sessions

Russia’s ambassador to Washington was overheard by U.S. spy agencies telling his bosses that he had discussed campaign-related matters, including issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing current and former U.S. officials.

A U.S. official confirmed to Reuters that Ambassador Sergei Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions, then a U.S. senator and key foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump, were intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was nothing automatically inappropriate about Sessions, then a U.S. senator as well as a Trump supporter, discussing policy matters or even Trump’s thinking about them with a foreign diplomat.

“The question is whether he crossed the line and discussed classified information or talked about deals like lifting sanctions if the Russians were interested in investing in the U.S. or had dirt on Secretary Clinton,” said a second official familiar with the intercepts, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. “His memory is another matter.”

Sessions at first failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

As Attorney General, he recused himself in March from matters connected to an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any connections to the Trump campaign following his admission that he had talked to the Russian envoy.

Sessions has denied discussing campaign issues with Russian officials and has said that he only met Kislyak in his role of U.S. senator.

The Post cited one U.S. official as saying that Sessions provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.”

The newspaper reported that a former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

A day or two ago:  Trump says he should not have picked Sessions as attorney general

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would not have appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation, according to a New York Times interview.

“Sessions should have never recused himself and if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” the Times quoted Trump as saying.

Not surprisingly this comment was strongly criticised. It is criticval the Attorney General be independent of the president, especially when investigating things related to the president. And when the Attorney General was also linked to aspects of any investigation they had no choice to recuse.

The Nation – Jacinda Ardern

 

Jacinda Ardern was interviewed on The Nation this morning. I only caught bits and pieces because I was boiling water on the BBQ as the power came back on.

My main impression was effusive evasion.

@TheNationNZ

says Labour is presenting a stark choice to voters and cancelling tax cuts is bold

“We believe in full employment. That’s bold”.

But she said Labour’s target was dropping unemployment from 5% to 4% but she couldn’t say how many jobs that was.

Says borrowing for Kiwibuild and to restart contributions to the Super Fund is “justifiable debt”

“My relative position doesn’t matter to me” says all that matters is being in Govt”.

She says she’d like to be the Minister for Children.

Evasive on her lack of leadership ambitions and lack of caring who becomes deputy Prime Minister is Labour lead the next government.

Asked if she would step up if Labour’s vote drops and Andrew Little doesn’t make it back into Parliament she was very evasive. She said their aim was to change the government and there was “no plan B”.

Any party going into this election with any thoughts of being a part of the next government has to be considering a wide range of possibilities. ‘No plan B’ is the equivalent of no credible planning.

South Island flooding

There was extensive flooding yesterday in many parts of Canterbury and Otago. It kept raining through the night in Dunedin and by the look of things elsewhere, and rivers are reported to be running at record levels.

A state of emergency was declared in Timaru yesterday and in Dunedin overnight.

When daylight arrives in an hour or two we will get a better idea of how bad things are.

And just as I was typing up this the power came off, and it’s just come back on 3 hours later, so I’m a bit behind this morning.

Media watch – Saturday

22 July 2017

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Open Forum – Saturday

22 July 2017

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts.

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria.

Free speech is an important principle here but some people who might pose a risk to the site will have to keep going through moderation due to abuses by a small number of malicious people.

A wide variety of topics and views are encouraged and welcomed, but some topics and some extremes may not be appropriate nor allowed.

World watch – Saturday

Friday GMT

WorldWatch

For events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.

“Imagine a world without white men”

These days it’s not uncommon to come across ‘white men bad’ type sentiments. It’s not uncommon for someone seen to be a ‘white man’, especially one who isn’t young and doesn’t seem to be poor, to have their views dismissed as irrelevant in the modern world.

All ‘white men’ are tarnished with the same white brush off.

Lucy Zee at The Spinoff:  Remembering the white men who tried to sell us stuff on TV

Imagine a world without white men.

Well for starters, New Zealand would have hardly any television commercials. My parents were very fresh Asian immigrants when they had me, and the only way I learned how to speak English before going to kindergarten was by watching TV.

TV back in the day wasn’t as diverse as it is now (or didn’t try as hard), so commercials were 99% white people with big white teeth, followed by more white people with even bigger and whiter teeth.

As I got older, the flashy whiteness steadily got more mind numbing and much more obnoxious. I couldn’t tell if my TV was showing the same amount of whiteness it always had, or if I had simply become more aware of my racial identity and demanded more diversity.

My entire life I had been raised by white men telling me what to buy, what to eat and how to eat it. Some ads worked, some didn’t, but I remembered all of them. Looking back on the past few years here is a list of the most memorable white men who tried sell me things I didn’t need.

A number of advertisement examples are given. Suzanne Paul, Marge and Briscoes aren’t included for obvious reasons.

So what did we learn? Even if you don’t watch TV anymore; even if you have an ad blocker on your browser; even if you stab your eyes out and block your ears; white guys are still out here trying to sell you something. If it’s not a tyre then it’s a dream. If it’s not a dream then it’s themselves.

The worst part of all this is that those “nostalgic” white men ads aren’t all that spectacular.

They must have been hopeless. Companies that advertised went broke, newspapers and broadcast media went broke (they are now but that’s a different story, Google isn’t a white male).

They do the absolute minimum an advert needs to do. If something is forced down your throat enough – all day, every day throughout your entire childhood – you’ll probably start to enjoy it. But we need variety, we need flavour, we need more colour on our plates. Because having too much white bread just isn’t good for us.

Funny thing – I only ever had white bread at home, browner bread with lumpy bits were a curiosity when I saw it at my neighbours – who happened to be a white couple. But the beer was all the same brown colour then too.

This article prompted some discussion at Reddit: Remembering the white men who tried to sell us stuff on TV

I don’t have the energy to care if it’s tongue in cheek or not but The Spinoff’s increasing amount of articles that focus on race (namely that white people are a problem) are starting to annoy me. If this is tongue in cheek then I really don’t understand the purpose apart from trying to create controversy.

Oh… it’s not tongue in cheek. She’s serious about white people controlling ads I guess. So she selected a few ads and used that as proof? And only men for that matter so I guess it’s sexist as well? I don’t get it.

Fuck this is tiresome.

Ah, but computer_d is bound to be a white male so he would say that. Ignore it.

You should put me on the ignore shelf too amongst the white cobwebs of the past – except that I could claim to be of a smaller minority than whatever Lucy Zee thinks they are (I presume non-male non-white).

What both of us write is grey on white – does it matter what colour our fingers are?

 

Dotcom loses bid to access GCSB recordings

Kim Dotcom has failed in a bid through the High Court to get access to recordings made by the GCSB.

NZH: Kim Dotcom kept in the dark about GCSB spying

In a just-released ruling, Justice Murray Gilbert has said the recordings won’t be released.

The GCSB has previously admitted illegally intercepting private communications between Kim and Mona Dotcom, and Bram van der Kolk, as part of the extradition case being built between December 2011 and March 2012.

Then-Prime Minister John Key has apologised for the communications being intercepted.

“The Dotcoms complain that non-disclosure impedes their ability to pursue their claim and breaches their rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990,” the decision said.

“In particular, they submit that the measure of damages to which they are entitled will depend on the extent and nature of the unlawful intrusion into their private lives and the raw communications are needed to establish this.”

The Dotcom team said that any national security issues shouldn’t stop the information being released, because information on the sources and methods of intelligence-gathering were already public knowledge.

But lawyers for the GCSB argued that releasing the material could prejudice the security of New Zealand, and the confidence of other countries in entrusting sensitive information to New Zealand.

A main reason for Justice Gilbert’s decision is a 2013 Court of Appeal verdict that ruled the GCSB didn’t have to release the raw communications. Justice Gilbert said that meant he couldn’t relitigate the issue.

Even if it wasn’t for the Court of Appeal verdict, Justice Gilbert said national security issues outweighed public interest in the raw communications.

Dotcom has indicated he will appeal this decision.

Dotcom has been giving some of our laws a good workout. And his lawyers.

Labour propose $4b boost to education

Labour say they will stop schools asking for donations and have pledged a big boost in education spending.

RNZ:  Labour pledges $4bn boost for education sector

The party said it would give an extra $4 billion to education over the next four years, which it said would lift the quality of the education system and reduce pressure on early childhood centres, schools, tertiary institutions and parents.

Note that $4 billion over 4 years is an average of $1 billion per year. Parties have a habit of quoting costs over multiple years.

“We need more qualified early childhood teachers, school teachers who aren’t swimming in paperwork, and tertiary institutions that drive excellence in teaching and research,” Mr Little said.

We need more of everything except inefficient and unnecessary spending.

As part of its education policy, it would give an extra $150 per student to every school that agreed to stop asking parents for a donation.

Labour leader Andrew Little said schools would still be able to request parents pay for extracurricular activities, such as camps, but those that accepted the extra money would not be able to ask for a donation.

“Labour has always been committed to a world-class free education system that’s accessible to everyone and today we’re reaffirming that commitment,” he said.

“That’s why we’ll end so-called voluntary school donations for every school that takes up our scheme.

“Under National, school donations have jumped by 50 percent and they continue to rise due to National’s freeze on schools’ operational funding last year.”

It does look like operational funding for 2016 and 2017 are the same – see: