The cost of outsourcing Government

A few people from the ruling class get paid handsomely for their expertise in helping the Government make decisions, but many people wait and struggle.

It’s important that any Government reach out and utilise the expertise of non-elected people. However it is fair to question the amount they do this, and the amount they spend on it.

It’s well known that the current Government was not well prepared to take over, despite spending nine years in Opposition (in which time the did a number of inquiries/investigations).

It’s also well known that they have set up many reviews, working groups, inquiries, teams, committees and whatever else they call them. It will be some time before we can judge whether the cost is justified.

There are various claims about the cost of outsourcing Government decisions.

Andrea Vance – Outsourcing Government: The $55m cost of reviews

A bumper number of Government working groups, reviews and inquiries has a $55m price tag – with some consultants raking in $1400 a day.

An analysis by Stuff puts the number of reviews at 31, with 10 inquiries, and 27 working groups.

In Opposition National has a more liberal interpretation.

The National Party puts the cost even higher – with a $114m price tag for 122 working groups and 45 reviews. Leader Simon Bridges said that’s bringing about “a slow death by consultants.”

His party’s costing, released on Thursday, includes the establishment of government departments like the Pike River Recovery Agency and the Social Investment Agency, and reviews that are required by legislation or enacted by the previous government.

Of course the Government PR plays the other way:

The Government has pushed back, saying it counts 38 reviews. Of those, 29 are costed with a $34m price tag. They say that in the long-run, it works out at four cents for every $100 of government spending.

Their $34m claim doesn’t include all of their ‘reviews’. Their ‘four cents’ claim is meaningless.

When homelessness and poverty are constantly in the news the amount paid to those co-opted onto the many committees looks obscene:

Former Ombudsman Ron Paterson will earn $1400 a day chairing an inquiry into mental health and addiction.

Retired Supreme Court Judge Sir Terence Arnold will get the same for leading the year-long inquiry into controversial Afghanistan military Operation Burnham.

Former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer will net a $1300-a day fee for the inquiry into Defence Force actions.

Ex-Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand will be paid $1400 for each day he works chairing the Royal Commission into State Care abuse.

Ex- Labour Finance Minister Michael Cullen is getting a daily $1062 fee for heading up the Tax Working Group.

And Helen Clark’s former chief of staff Heather Simpson will get the same for leading a review into the health and disability system.

Many struggling New Zealanders wil barely be getting that sort of money per month.

And most of the above members of the ruling class will also be getting Government superannuation.

Ardern said there was a lot for her Government to fix.

“These aren’t things are being done because everything is fine. Where we have decided to take a second look, it’s because something isn’t working.”

The Government made quick decisions on some things – like the $billions committed to fee free tertiary education where it is debatable that anything has been fixed, and the $billions committed to regional handouts with a rush to dish out the dosh.

But many people in real need have to wait on a review or inquiry, and some will have to wait on the election in 2020 and then help is still in doubt.

The cost of outsourcing Government isn’t just in monetary terms, it is a cost to the quality of life for many of us.

Political coverage upheaval at 1 News

Political journalists at 1 News are deserting faster than National MPs after a change of leadership.

NZH: TVNZ reporter quits as new leader steps in

1 NEWS reporter Jessica Mutch has been in her role as TVNZ political editor for just over a month and it seems her Wellington colleagues, Katie Bradford and Andrea Vance are a little miffed they did not get the job.

Vance has quit the national broadcaster while Bradford has asked for reassignment to Auckland after they both missed out.

TVNZ, Mutch, Bradford and Vance did not want to comment but a spokeswoman for TVNZ confirmed the newsroom had been told of Vance’s and Bradford’s moves.

Vance, from Northern Ireland, has been with 1 NEWS since 2015.

Bradford, daughter of former Green MP Sue Bradford, has been with 1 NEWS since 2013 and Spy understands she made no secret of her desire to return to Auckland if she didn’t land the political editor role.

Mutch, 33, was based in the press gallery for eight years, and was TVNZ’s deputy political editor before moving to London as Europe correspondent.

So it’s not just political parties who have power struggles and departing unsuccessful candidates.

Dann leaving, and now followed by Vance and Bradford leaving, forces major changes to 1 News political coverage.

Dann announced a move to a full time role at Q&A in January.

Vance has been reported to be going back to Stuff. Her Twitter profile:”Northern Irish journalist. Can’t stop moving.” I don’t know if that has been recently revised.

 

BSA reject Labour complaint

Last November after Labour released a youth work scheme policy 1 News journalist Andrea Vance questioned their costings. Labour conceded that they had not mentioned an assumption that a 6 month subsidy was costed for 4 months as they though that would be the average.

Despite their omission Phil Twyford attacked Vance on Twitter quite severely, and then Labour laid a complaint with the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

See Labour lay complaint over coverage of policy costings.

The BSA has released it’s finding in which they rejected Labour’s complaint: Jaspers and Television New Zealand Ltd – 2016-095 (19 April 2017)

Summary

An item on 1 News reported on the Labour Party’s ‘Ready for Work’ policy, which offered unemployed young people employment on the minimum wage in environmental and community projects for six months.

The item reported that, according to Labour, the scheme would cost $60 million per year for 10,000 participants. However, the $60-million sum was actually ‘based on participants taking up the scheme for just four months, not the promised six’.

The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was based on inaccurate and unsubstantiated conclusions made by the reporter featured in the item, which was misleading and damaged the credibility of the Labour Party.

The reporter’s comments, while critical, were not inaccurate or misleading, and it is an important function of the media to comment critically on political party policy in the lead up to an election period.

Labour was given sufficient opportunity to consider the reporter’s comments and to put forward its views, both during the 1 News item and in considerable coverage in other media at the time.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance

So Vance was doing her job as a political journalist, Twyford blew a fuse on Twitter, and Labour took the rare step of complaining to the BSA.

Vance was exonerated.

Labour had egg on their face when their policy was examined, Twyford threw eggs at Vance, Labour complained about the eggs to the BSA, and Labour’s reputation has ended up scrambled.

Nelson electorate deal denials

Mixed messages over Labour-Green electorate deals or no deals continue, with denials from both Labour and the Greens that there there will be no deal in Nelson.

In the original 1 News report Exclusive: The backroom deals that Labour and the Greens are working on ahead of 2017 election Andrea Vance said:

In Nelson the Greens fell like they can pick up a lot of votes and so they’re in talks with Labour at the moment to stand a Labour candidate aside so that the Greens can have a clear run in that seat in Nelson.

The reason the greens have chosen Nelson is because it’s a classically Green seat. Now they’ll campaign hard in that seat because they’ve been given a chunk of money by an anonymous donor who has specified it must be used in the campaign in Nelson and the West Coast only.

And so Labour found it easy to stand aside because the candidate there would go up against Nick Smith for the electorate vote who’s been there for years and years and years and there’s a strong incumbent.

There is some very specific information there. Someone must have given this to Vance. Metiria Turei and her plans to stand in Te Tai Tonga also featured in that item.

Little responded on 1 News’ Breakfast programme: “This is news to me, we have no agreement on any seat”.

A follow up from 1 News: ‘Bugger that!’ – Labour members leave party over proposed deal with Green Party in Nelson

Eight Labour members have quit the party in protest over a proposed electorate deal with the Greens in Nelson.

One of those who quit said the members had emailed in their resignations – and the reasons – to the party.

“They were eight core people and they’ve walked away. They expected us to help the Greens… we’re not going to work for the Greens, bugger that.”

The ex-member said supporters were unhappy about how they learned about the proposed deal.

“It leaked out at the [annual] conference. One of the candidates was told by Andrew Little… people here are really angry.

But Labour continues to deny any deal in Nelson. Stuff: Labour denies giving Green light for Nelson:

The Labour Party has denied suggestions it is standing aside in Nelson, despite media reports that it is engaging in strategic deals with the Greens ahead of next year’s general election.

Labour general secretary Andrew Kirton said despite an agreement between Labour and the Greens to work together to change the Government there was no such plan for Nelson.

“We have a very strong party in Nelson and that won’t change. I’ve been impressed by how our members have remained committed to winning government next year,” he said.

“This is about how to work together under MMP to change the Government and get the economy working for all New Zealanders.”

A “no such plan for Nelson” denial followed by general poliwaffle.

Greens are also now denying a deal has been done.

Greens co-leader James Shaw said no decisions had been made about any electorate seats, including Nelson. He also said was wrong to suggest that there was any connection between this donation and its candidate selection process in Nelson.

“That is patently incorrect … no decision has been made about the Nelson electorate seat, or any others, and no donation, regardless of its size, will have any bearing on our decision-making process.”

The original report didn’t say a deal had been done, just that Greens were ‘in talks with Labour’, albeit implying it looked likely to happen.

And of particular note is that Shaw is doing the backtracking, not Metiria Turei.

This is a real muddle and doesn’t help Labour and Greens look like a cohesive government-in-waiting.

Labour lay complaint over coverage of policy costings

In the weekend Labour released policy on a youth work scheme.

Labour will:

  • give unemployed young people a job for six months doing work of public value, so they can gain work experience and avoid long-term unemployment.

With an estimated 10,000 participants per year, Ready for Work will cost $60m a year.

The cost was questioned by David Farrar yesterday afternoon, and again on 1 News last night in Labour proposing to offer unemployed young Kiwis paid volunteer work for six months.

This gave fairly wide coverage of Andrew Little’s speech but criticised them for not getting their numbers right, or not being specific about what they covered (4 months on average, not 6 months).

This morning on Twitter Phil Twyford, who is heading Labours election campaign in Auckland, must have got out of the wrong side of the bed, or had a sleepless night chewing over the coverage.

. Appalled by your biased story on last night. You were fully briefed on numbers but you chose to run Nat attack line.

rubbish. We weren’t told $60m was based on avg 4 months & nowhere did it say ‘up to’ 6 months. U fudged it.

Nor were the rest of us “fully briefed”.

If you wanted detail on cost assumptions you only needed to ask. Andrea’s piece a lapse of professnl stds.

Nor were the rest of us fully briefed till we asked after Andrea’s story.

Not so. Andrea was briefed personally on modelling and assumptions. There was no mistake.Numbers do add up.

bollocks

and we did ask in the standup and nobody said it was based on 4 months

I stand by the story.

Public deserves better than bias and hatchet jobs as we enter election year. Sound assumptions on costs were explained to you.

And it looks like Twyford and Labour are not letting go of this.

Labour has lodged formal complaint with TVNZ over its coverage of their youth work scheme

Donald Trump has nearly managed to pull of a great election heist by attacking the media, but I think Twyford and the New Zealand media will be quite different.

Vance lances Little’s Labour

Andrea Vance lances Andrew Little and Labour, and broadswords them and then thrusts a dagger – in Little doing a poor job of telling Labour’s story.

Vance is not usually seen as a left unfriendly screaming righty. And that’s not how she comes across in this opinion piece at One News. She adds to what are fairly widely talked perceptions of Labour under Little.

Why – when they started the week with a bump in the polls – is the party yet again facing whispers and recriminations about disunity?

It’s because Andrew Little waxes desperate with imagination.

I’m not sure about the imagination.

In an astonishing and undignified episode, he tongue-lashed Wellington mayoral candidate Nick Leggett and left-wing commentator Phil Quin, and humiliated his Napier MP Stuart Nash.

Little forced Nash to pull out of a speaking engagement and branded former Labour party member Leggett “right wing”.

It’s probably not uncommon for leaders to though their weight around within their party, but not as publicly as Little lashed out at what he seems to see as traitors of the left.

Little over-reacted and in doing so has ripped opened the debate about where he is taking the party.

Labour’s broad church is closing in on itself and a centrist or faction to the right no longer looks viable, with the exit of Phil Goff, Clayton Cosgrove and potentially David Shearer.

What’s worse is that Little and his office look intent on forcefully shutting down any internal debate or discussion.

In assuming the leadership, Little stopped the party tearing itself apart.

But now it’s time to relax the discipline, because it’s poisoning the well of fresh ideas that Labour badly need.

Many might claim that the well of fresh ideas has been poisoned at least since Helen Clark left nearly eight years ago.

It also makes Little and his office look thin-skinned, weak and paranoid. (His team has also been overly aggressive in spats with John Shewan and Earl Hagaman, which hints at a toxic culture.)

Attempts to look tough have looked overly tetchy, and as responses from Shewan and Hagaman especially have shown, Little has attracted some messy looking publicity.

Little is no Jeremy Corbyn: his leadership is safe until the election.

But he’s doing a poor job of telling Labour’s story, particularly to those floating centre voters.

Is he trying to tell Labour’s story? It looks more like Matt McCarten and Little have chosen a heavy handed old style union approach.

They are at risk of prompting voters to go on strike and lock them out of the government benches.

A bolshie looking narrow left is going to struggle to appeal widely.

Panama papers investigation – “NZ a tax haven”

Nicky Hager says “What the Panama Papers show without any doubt at all, absolutely conclusively, is that New Zealand is functioning as a tax haven.”

That in itself may or may not be a serious issue for New Zealand. Any country can potentially be used in some way by someone as a tax haven.

It could be argued that Inland Revenue enables tax evasion because some people in New Zealand evade tax. Should we clamp down on the grey economy?

The key issue is whether New Zealand allows trusts that are out of the ordinary and what trusts are used for here can’t be used elsewhere.

Does New Zealand need to clamp down on trusts? Or are we just one option for rich people wanting to hide income and if we weren’t available they would simply do it somewhere else?

If the latter then it is an international issue and the motives for singling out New Zealand should be examined.

Nicky Hager has a reputation for politically loaded revelations so this will require substantial balanced analysis.

One News: Panama Papers investigation: ‘NZ absolutely, conclusively is a tax haven’

Tens of thousands of Panama Papers documents reveal how New Zealand, Niue, The Cook Islands and Samoa have become prime destinations for the rich to hide their financial secrets.

 The documents have been subject of an investigation by ONE News, in partnership with RNZ News and investigative journalist Nicky Hager.

Hager says: “What the Panama Papers show without any doubt at all, absolutely conclusively, is that New Zealand is functioning as a tax haven.”

It can be revealed that at the centre of the New Zealand operation is Roger Thompson, a former Inland Revenue worker.

His accountancy firm – Bentleys, in the heart of Auckland’s business district – is the New Zealand agent for Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Mr Hager describes it as “an ordinary office in the middle of Queen Street where nobody would look and where it’s only inside the computer files and the filing cabinet that you would realise that that is the centre of all kinds of tax haven activity in our country”.

For $4000 this New Zealand agent creates trusts for wealthy foreigners who use New Zealand’s limited disclosure rules to stay anonymous, even to tax authorities.

An admin fee of almost $3000 a year will see Bentleys send a one-page form to Inland Revenue. It confirms foreign trust clients don’t need to pay any tax under New Zealand law.

Mr Hager says: “IRD never knows who the real people are who are behind these trusts. They never get to see the accounts. They never get to see what business they’re doing.”

The point has just been made on Breakfast that what is happening in New Zealand isn’t illegal.

Andrea Vance has fronted the One News investigation – working closely with Nicky Hager – and she made the point that it raised important moral questions that needed to be considered.

The investigation into the Panama Papers New Zealand is a journalistic collaboration by reporters from ONE News, RNZ News and investigative journalist Nicky Hager.

It may be difficult separating political activism from legitimate legal and financial issues.

So it needs to be properly thrashed out whether New Zealand should allow this legal activity (legal on the New Zealand trust side of things at least).

Also:

Radio NZ:

Labour ‘officially’ opposing TPPA

One News last night said that Labour finally confirms it’s opposed to controversial TPPA.

Labour’s leader says it’s now opposing the TPP. But the Trade Minister said Andrew Little should be very careful about trying to renegotiate.

Andrea Vance: Ambivalent until now, Labour has finally confirmed it is opposed to the controversial Trans Pacific trade deal.

Andrew Little: I don’t support it. We don’t support it.

Andrea Vance: Labour’s convinced the trade-off tramples over Parliament’s sovereign right to make laws.

Andrew Little: Very difficult as it is for us as a party that for eighty years has supported for, championed and advanced the cause of free trade, we see an agreement that cuts right across the rights of New Zealand citizens…

Andrea Vance: Plus Andrew points to US University analysis which predicts the deal will lead to between five thousand and six thousand jobs lost in New Zealand by 2025. The report also estimates GDP growth of less than 0.8%, again by 2025.

Andrew Little: They’re saying that the New Zealand economy as a result of the TPPA will have grown by 47% as opposed to 46% without the TPPA so they’re saying not much here…

Andrea Vance: So what’s it mean for the TPP if Labour gets in to Government?

Andrew Little: I’ll go to the other parties and say ‘right, this isn’t good enough for New Zealand, and New Zealand has said that, and we want to renegotiate these things.

Andrea Vance: The Government says these threats put Labour on shaky grounds.

Todd McClay (Trade Minister): I think they need to be very careful about the signals that they are sending.

Andrea Vance: At least Labour seems to have stopped serving up mixed signals.

That was Little last night. This morning: Labour split on TPPA

Andrew Little: from euphoria to reality

Andrew Little will probably have been greatly encouraged by the euphoric response to his Labour Conference speech in the weekend. But beyond the party faithful and hopeful, reality has set in with some brutal assessments.

I thought Little’s speech showed some hope and promise. It contrasted with his unimpressive interviews in The Nation and Q & A. But one speech does not a leader make.

It was an important speech for the party. but going by media reaction it will have done little to lift Little’s credibility as a potential Prime Minister, or lift Labour’s credibility as a Government in waiting.

Audrey Young gave a positive report in Little smashed it – literally.

Andrew Little smashed it.

He has two years to win over the public before the next election.

His speech to the Labour conference this year needed to win over the members, who afterall, did not support him in the leadership contest a year ago.

Job done, as they say.

It was one of the best speeches by a Labour leader in recent years, in both content, delivery and production.

It succeeded in showing a fuller picture of Andrew Little the person and give a clearer idea of what sort of Prime Minister he would be.

Andrea Vance had a mixed report in Dreams are free – but the electorate knows ambitious policies aren’t:

Little’s first duty was to announce the grounds on which Labour will oppose the TPP.

The deal is a touch-paper for the left and Little is walking a tightrope between the pro-free trade and the anti-corporate elements in his party.

His position is confused – and he’s probably going to spend the next week defending it.

And the reality:

The past year clearly hasn’t been wasted. Little’s team have been learning from past mistakes. But one factor remains a constant – for Labour to win they must persuade the electorate they won’t be profligate.

Little’s asking for patience over spending plans and won’t say if he’ll raise taxes. Dreams are free – but the electorate knows ambitious policies aren’t.

That’s a future challenge for Little. Labour’s conference talked about health, education and jobs, jobs, jobs, to be created by a Labour Government. It’s easy to take spending, spending, spending out of that with little sign of hiow that will be paid for.

But Little’s Sunday euphoria has been crashed to reality in today’s Dominion editorial – Andrew Little is not the man to lead Labour out of the wilderness.

Little had moved long before last weekend’s annual party conference to kill off the remnants of the Leftish policy Labour touted last year.

Little now stands on a bare platform with no significant policy. The fact that nobody much cared when he threw out the old policies might be taken as a sign of a newly unified Labour Party. Or it might be a sign that Labour is a corpse. It doesn’t have the strength to fight or even to disagree with itself. So the attempt to hide everything behind closed doors wasn’t even needed.

Having no policy to sell, Little tried to sell himself. His “impassioned” speech was in fact awkward and unconvincing.

Bellowing about the Kiwi dream and promising “Jobs. Jobs. Jobs” is empty posturing and oddly out of kilter with the national mood. So is the pledge to “turn the page” on the last seven years.

We’ve yet to see whether the country (or polls refeklecting the mood of the country) sees it like this – or even say anything of Little’s speech.

Little will claim that it’s too early in the electoral cycle for policy details, and he’s right. But it’s never too early to create a buzz or the impression that the old party is coming back to life.

Labour can’t even take the step of injecting new blood into its leadership with the fresh face of Jacinda Ardern.

Her qualities are modest, but she is a sign of life. Labour has few other such signs.

‘Same old’ Labour without any policies is going to be a hard perception top turn around.

Neither as a union politician nor as a parliamentarian has Little been a bold or lively reformer. He has little charisma and a lack of new ideas.

It’s hard to believe he will lead Labour out of the wilderness.

That’s harsh.

But it’s a dose of reality. Little should get some confidence from the party reception of his speech but he needs to appear strong and positive regularly, without the double speak he has resorted to over the flag change and the TPPA.

The Otago Daily Times editorial today is also on Little and Labour – Little needs voter momentum.

By all accounts, Labour Party leader Andrew Little made a strong showing at the party’s annual conference held in Palmerston North at the weekend.

Snippets of his speech shown on television news reports, and comment pieces published in this newspaper, indicated Mr Little has managed to crack through the veneer surrounding him since his narrow election as leader.

Reading through the speech at leisure, there are hints of a man with deeper thoughts than previously indicated.

Mr Little gives a sense of direction, something lacking in Labour since the defeat of the Helen Clark-led government which brought in former financial trader John Key as prime minister.

National have managed to win three elections with sparse policy platforms, but they have had John Key who was immediately popular when he took over leadershiop of National and he remains popular.

Labour have lost three elections and turned over four leaders. They have been busy u-turning on a number of policies so now have very little.

Mr Little is seen as humourless, dour and part of the fun police of the Labour Party while Mr Key is shown schmoozing with All Blacks, royalty and crowds of his supporters.

What Mr Little needs to do now is get out into the electorates in which Labour lost the party vote and start securing voter support.

It will not be an easy task.

Many voters have been turned off by Labour’s list of recent leadership changes and a lack of change in MPs.

Even now, there is an ongoing back-of-the-mind thought Mr Little will not lead Labour into the next election.

What is disappointing is Labour feeling the need to hold all but a few high-profile speeches at its conference behind closed doors.

It will not be easy for Mr Little to convince even the party faithful in places such as Dunedin he is the one to take Labour back into power.

He languishes in the polls, gaining little traction with voters.

And, despite a front bench reshuffle, Labour MPs are still seen as too far out of touch with real New Zealand.

Little has failed to excite the polls.

National-lite with a charisma deficit and limited and aged line-up is going to be a hard sell, especially when Labour are also going to need Greens and probably NZ First.

Little lifted his game in his conference speech. But he will need to lift his and Labour’s game consistently and substantially to build on that.

Rodney Hide on MP time limits and career MPs

In an NBR column Rodney Hide has suggested MPs should be limited to four terms in Parliament – that’s twelve years – and criticised ‘professionals politicians’.

Time limits will serve public not politicians

Reports of Phil Goff running for mayor of Auckland remind me of the desperate need for term limits.

That’s behind a pay wall so unless you subscribe you won’t see the column. I don’t subscribe but Bryce Edwards tweeted a few of the details.

Rodney Hide: “Time limits will serve public not politicians” – fantastic column on pro politicians

On professional MPs: “There’s no leadership, no principles, no underpinning philosophy or view of life”

“Goff has never made a do-or-die stand and, indeed, has travelled the entire political spectrum and back again”

There does seem to be a growing problem with too many career MPs but that’s a choice of the parties that select them for winnable electorates and put them on winnable positions on their lists.

Hide argues we need a “simple rule that an MP can only serve a maximum of four terms. That one change would transform politics.”

“One quarter of the Parliament would be retired every election. There would be a proper churn”, bringing greater MP diversity

That’s if there’s enough capable people aspiring to MPs that would replace them.

This limiting of MP’s choice to stand or not mustn’t be very Liberal.

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