A slanted Panama/trust poll

Activist group Action Station have commissioned and used a poll as a part of their campaign on tax and foreign trust issues – good on them for pushing for better tax and trust laws, but their polling and publicising are slanted.

The Herald reported on a UMR poll conducted for Action Station:

Panama Papers: Majority of Kiwis ‘concerned’ about New Zealand’s new reputation

Pressure over the Panama Papers on the Government is rising after a poll showed a majority of New Zealanders were concerned about the country’s new reputation as a tax haven.

A poll by UMR Research, conducted for activist group ActionStation, showed 57 per cent of respondents were “concerned” about New Zealand being a tax haven and the misuse of our foreign trust regime for tax evasion purposes. Just 23 per cent said they were “not concerned” about the issue.

ActionStation spokeswoman Marianne Elliot said the results of the poll spoke for themselves.

“A majority of New Zealanders are concerned that sloppy trust laws, left open by the current and former governments, have allowed the world’s rich to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Most New Zealanders are not satisfied with the Government’s current response,” Elliot said.

But the poll didn’t determine that a majority of New Zealanders thought that. Elliot has embellished the poll results with her own phrases.

Has Matt Nippert misquoted Elliot? No, he appears to have cut and pasted her words from an Action Station press release Poll shows Govt seen to be handling tax haven issue “poorly” apart from removing the first part:

ActionStation spokesperson Marianne Elliott says: “The polling shows that like ActionStation members, a majority of New Zealanders are concerned that sloppy trust laws, left open by the current and former governments, have allowed the world’s rich to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Most New Zealanders are not satisfied with the Government’s current response.”

Nippert also reported:

The UMR poll, of 750 people between April 14 and 18 and with a margin of error of 3.6 per cent, also asked respondents how they thought the Government had handled the fallout from the Panama Papers and whether they thought the review of foreign trusts by former PWC chairman John Shewan, was an adequate response.

Again that looks to be picked out of the press release. But there was a PDF attached that shows what was actually asked in the poll.

Using a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 means very concerned and 5 means not concerned at all, how concerned are you about New Zealand being a tax haven with foreign trusts being used by people overseas for tax evasion purposes?

  • Concerned (1+2) 57%
  • Neutral (3+ Unsure) 20%
  • Not concerned (4+5) 23%

Elliot portrayed this as 57% versus 23% – excluding 20% stated in the poll as ‘neutral/unsure’. Being neutral could mean unconcerned.

But worse is the loading of the question. It refers to New Zealand ‘being a tax haven with foreign trusts being used by people overseas for tax evasion purposes’ but this is a disputed accusation and unproven.

The second question:

Now, using a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 means very well and 5 means very poorly, how do you think the New Zealand government is dealing with the problem of New Zealand being a tax haven with foreign trusts being used by people overseas for tax evasion purposes?

  • Handling well (1+2) 21%
  • Neutral (3+ Unsure) 33%
  • Handling poorly (4+5) 46%

This is an even more loaded question stating that there is a problem of New Zealand  being a tax haven and is used for tax evasion purposes.

The third question:

As you may be aware the government has appointed John Shewan, former chair of PricewaterhouseCoopers, to review New Zealand’s foreign trusts laws. Do you think that this is an adequate response to the foreign trusts issue or do you think a full public independent enquiry is needed?

  • An adequate response 31%
  • A full public independent inquiry is needed 52%
  • Neither/unsure 17%

As well as this question implying that John Shewan’s inquiry may not be be full or independent it (Action Station) chooses to describe Shewan as “former chair of PricewaterhouseCoopers”.

They chose not to describe Shewan as:

  • one of the “leading tax practitioners” at PWC over 28 years,
  • nor that after that he was “an adjunct professor of accountancy at Victoria University” since then,
  • nor that he “has been appointed by Labour and National-led governments to official bodies looking into tax”,
  • nor that he served an appointment to the Tax education Office for 9 years,
  • nor that he was part of the Tax Working Group that advised the Government in 2009,
  • nor that he is “an established commentator on tax and policy matters,
  • nor that he has been involved also in a number of high-profile tax cases”.

Source Radio NZ: Who is John Shewan?

Action Station asked the questions they wanted to, got the results that they wanted,  Elliot embellished the results with her own phrases, and Nippert seems to have simply quoted her press release.

Before having this poll done Action Station had already decided their stance – see New Zealand is a Tax Haven. Prime Minister, this needs to change.

All this media attention has created an opportunity for change by exposing New Zealand’s role in endorsing international tax dodging. We need to move quickly to seize this opportunity and call for real change, making sure the message that our trust laws need to be reformed is at the centre of the debate.

So sign the petition now calling for our government to close the loopholes that allow the world’s rich to escape paying their fair share in tax by using foreign trusts in New Zealand. We do not want New Zealand to be a tax haven for the world’s wealthiest 1%.

This is how Action Station describes themselves:

ActionStation is here to help defend our common goals; a fair society, a healthy environment and accountable politics through effective online issues-based campaigning.

They should be held accountable too, in this case for using questionable poll practices and then misrepresenting the results as a part of their campaign.

I’m all for questioning whether our tax and trust laws and practices are good enough. I look forward to the result of Shewan’s inquiry.

But I think a fair society needs fair campaigning on issues, and fair use of polling in campaigning.

Leave a comment

21 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  29th April 2016

    Don’t expect honesty from the loony Left or informed critical analysis of them from the MSM.

    Good commentary PG.

    Reply
  2. Matt Nippert; one of the primary disseminators of information illegally hacked from Cameron Slater. the other being Dotcom’s crony David Fisher.

    I tend not to take much of what is written by these two in particular at face value, as there is always an underlying agenda.

    Reply
    • Hand basket

       /  29th April 2016

      Matt Nippert / a primary contact for Cameron Slater to disseminate stories Matt thought at the time were fabulous and needed reporting so he could win more awards even though cough cough he knew where they came from!!!

      Reply
  3. Gezza

     /  29th April 2016

    Pity The Herald article isn’t open for comments. I’d be interested to read those.

    Reply
  4. Iceberg

     /  29th April 2016

    ActionSation has been dishonest bollocks from inception. Here’s a quote from it’s national director:

    “The term “progressive” is seldom used in New Zealand, she says, and ActionStation chooses to use it because it isn’t politically aligned”

    and this beaut from Scoop lat year:

    “ActionStation is an independent, member-led campaigning organisation, which regularly polls its members to assess which issues they want to campaign on, and what their views are on those issues”

    Poll driven policy anyone?

    Reply
  5. Blazer

     /  29th April 2016

    typical knee jerk response from Nat fan boy posters here.Deny and divert.

    Reply
    • Iceberg

       /  29th April 2016

      You’re on the wrong post Blaze. You’re supposed to be answering questions about your bullshit assertions on other posts. Or are you in denial and diverting?

      Reply
  6. Brown

     /  29th April 2016

    ”… good on them for pushing for better tax and trust laws …”

    Nope – its smoke and mirrors and to be ridiculed. Their wish will be more tax, and more tax, more giving to the useless, more tax, more waste, bigger govt, more troughers and did I mention more tax. They are best ignored as are all leftie zealots.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  29th April 2016

      I still wonder what you reckon Jesus would do Brown? He wandered around the Levant crashing at other people’s houses, eating their food & taking donations, telling everyone there was a better way to live, forgiving sinners & baddies, insisting everyone pay their taxes, being nice to people and instructing them to be kind to unfortunates. Remember the beatitudes?

      Reply
      • artcroft

         /  29th April 2016

        Those were the deserving poor Gezza, not the “pretty damned usless” lot we have today.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  29th April 2016

          They are the poor in spirit.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  29th April 2016

            You could have mentioned Mary leaving Martha to do all the work as if she was the servant, and Mary being praised for it. I have always had some sympathy for Martha-I wouldn’t appreciate this, either. Slaving away in a horribly hot kitchen as it would have been then, while her sister sits around like a lady of leisure-if Mary had lent a hand, the work would have been done that much faster and Martha could also have sat and joined in the conversation, too. She must have been tempted to walk out and let them make their own meal or go hungry !

            Reply
            • Brown

               /  29th April 2016

              This is where you need to understand what Jesus is saying to Martha and why. Jesus saw through the indignation to the cause of it. Martha needed a lesson about what is important in this life and the next – and got it.

            • Gezza

               /  29th April 2016

              What about the time 5000 people turned up to see Jesus do his act and none of these bludgers who obviously threw a sickie that day to go to a great show even brought a cut lunch. Did he moan about their fecklessness? Did he heck as like. He gave them all a free bloody dinner.

              When another bunch of 4000 no-hopers, probably after hearing about this little giveaway, turned up for a free lecture on a work day he did it again. No whingeing about it. No bagging gays & the bludgers first, just whipped up multiple orders of fish with a side order of bread & wished them bon appetit (or he probably would’ve said that if he’d been French).

              Plus both times his supply exceeded demand (dunno who made the faulty calculations, him or the Big Guy) so the apostels probably gave even more away for free to beggars and widows.

              When he wasn’t walking on water and raising people from the dead (so they say – I haven’t seen any footage of that) – he was still a pretty wise and giving sort of dude.

  7. Kitty Catkin

     /  29th April 2016

    Also or too, not both. Ouch.

    Reply
  8. Brown

     /  30th April 2016

    ” – he was still a pretty wise and giving sort of dude.”

    Don’t overlook the fact that he is God’s son and is going to judge us all. Good for some, not so good for others.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  30th April 2016

      I reckon he’s watching you closely Brownie. He doesn’t always look too pleased.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  30th April 2016

        “Don’t overlook the fact that he is God’s son and is going to judge us all. Good for some, not so good for others.”

        The muslims say Allah is going to do that. Although a few of them decide to do that themselves. Too many fundy Christians do the same thing.

        I was a Catholic, then an atheist – when I saw how some Christians behave – then I got interested in Biology & Genomics, Quantum Mechanics, Cosmology and te ngahere (the bush). Now I’m an agnostic. I know I’m a sinner mate. That’s between me and the creator if there is one. I always try to be a better person.

        Reply

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